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Self-help and daily living for polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

Because steroid tablets can increase the risk of osteoporosis it’s important to think about any other risk factors you may have. Factors that increase your risk include:

  • smoking
  • drinking a lot of alcohol.

Factors that can reduce your risk include:

  • eating a diet that contains plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • doing some weight-bearing exercise.

Sitting for any length of time may cause stiffness, making driving, for instance, more difficult. Stop from time to time on a long journey to stretch your legs, arms and shoulders.

Simple measures like a hot bath or shower first thing in the morning or after exercise can help to ease pain and stiffness.


You’ll need to find the right balance between rest and activity. Too much exercise is likely to make your symptoms worse, but activity usually helps to ease morning stiffness. Physiotherapy can be helpful in reducing pain and maintaining mobility.

Weight-bearing exercise (any exercise that involves walking or running) is best for maintaining bone strength and guarding against osteoporosis, but walking is usually most suitable for people with PMR.

Diet and nutrition

Steroid tablets reduce the amount of calcium absorbed from the gut and increase calcium loss through the kidneys. To counteract this we recommend a daily intake of calcium of 1,000 milligrams (mg) or 1,500 mg if you’re over 60. A pint of milk a day, together with a reasonable amount of other foods that contain calcium, should be enough.

Read more about the calcium content of some common foods.

Vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb and process calcium. Your body produces vitamin D when the skin is exposed to sunlight. It’s also obtained from some foods, especially oily fish, and is added to some soya milks and vegetable margarines. It’s sometimes necessary to take a daily supplement containing 10–20 micrograms (μg) (this is the same as 400 to 800 international units (IU)) of vitamin D, especially for people over 60.


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