Reviewed by National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

The treatment of choice for polymyalgia rheumatica is corticosteroid medication, usually prednisone.

Polymyalgia rheumatica responds to a low daily dose of prednisone that is increased as needed until symptoms disappear. Your doctor may gradually reduce the dosage to determine the lowest amount needed to alleviate symptoms. Most patients can discontinue medication after 6 months to 2 years. If symptoms recur, prednisone treatment is required again.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, also may be used to treat polymyalgia rheumatica. The medication must be taken daily, and long-term use may cause stomach irritation. For most patients, NSAIDs alone are not enough to relieve symptoms, but they can help reduce pain and inflammation.

Even without treatment, polymyalgia rheumatica usually disappears in 1 to several years. With treatment, however, symptoms disappear quickly, usually in 24 to 48 hours. If prednisone doesn't bring improvement, another diagnosis may be required.

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