Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) Diet and Exercise

healthy dietWe should all have a healthy diet, but a polymyalgia rheumatica diet is something that those who suffer from PMR should consider, along with polymyalgia rheumatica exercise.

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is an inflammatory disorder that leads to pain in the shoulders and upper body. Inflammation draws extra blood and white blood cells to the part of the body that is trying to protect you from harmful germs. The increase in fluid often causes pain, swelling, and stiffness.


Traditionally, treatment for polymyalgia has focused on steroids. However, recent research has demonstrated that lifestyle adjustments that include a polymyalgia rheumatica diet and polymyalgia rheumatica exercise can help manage the symptoms.

Also read: Shoulder blade (scapula) pain causes, symptoms, treatments, and exercises

Foods to Eat in a Polymyalgia Rheumatica Diet

Polymyalgia rheumatica diet and exercise may sound daunting to some people, but once you get into a routine, you will likely find that your new lifestyle isn’t too restrictive.

In terms of diet for polymyalgia rheumatica, you have to consider a few basic points:
some foods create more inflammation in your body, so if you have the condition, you should avoid those foods.

You’ll also want to eat some foods you’ll want to eat because they have the potential to fight the side effects of medications you might be taking for PMR. Those side effects include weight gain, bruising, cataracts, and osteoporosis.

While everyone reacts a different way to foods, the following are typical polymyalgia rheumatica diet treatment suggestions.

  • Healthy fats: Choose healthy fats like omega-3. Studies indicate that fish oil, which is a good source of omega-3, helps people who suffer from inflammatory diseases. Walnuts, flaxseed, eggs, salmon, and sardines have omega-3.
  • Other anti-inflammatory foods: There is a long list of other foods that are anti-inflammatory. Tomatoes, spinach, kale, collards, oranges, almonds, olive oil, and berries are all in the anti-inflammatory category.
  • Calcium & vitamin D: Since some medications for PMR increase osteoporosis risk, foods that are high in calcium and vitamin D can be helpful. A lot of people are aware that yogurt and cheese are both good sources of calcium, but did you know that broccoli, soybeans, okra, spinach, and sardines with bones are sources of calcium? As far as vitamin D goes, we absorb it when we’re exposed to sunlight, but there are foods that also provide this important vitamin. Tuna, egg yolk, salmon, beef liver, mushrooms, fortified bread, and other fortified dairy products have vitamin D in them.
  • Water: Making sure that you’re well hydrated can help fight inflammation. The recommended daily intake for adults is two to three liters of fluid per day. Some people find water “boring,” but they can always add a squirt of lemon or lime into the water to give it a flavor boost.
  • Coffee: Most of us have heard that coffee is bad, but in moderation, some people find that it has anti-inflammatory effects. A recent study showed that the inflammatory impact on each person varies when it comes to coffee drinking. Some people experience less inflammation and some experience more. If you like coffee, monitor how you feel afterward.

Also read: Anti-inflammatory diet: Most effective foods, herbs, and spices

Foods to Avoid for a Polymyalgia Rheumatica Diet

Some people find that polymyalgia diet changes are easier to approach by first looking at the foods you should avoid.

Here’s a list of foods that could aggravate polymyalgia rheumatica:

  • Red meat: High-fat meats can trigger inflammation
  • Processed foods: Lunch meat, hot dogs, cakes, pastries, breakfast cereals, bacon, and convenient foods are all processed.
  • White bread: This is a refined carbohydrate that can raise sugar in your bloodstream, leading to weight gain. White bread is also low in essential nutrients that people with inflammatory conditions need.
  • Margarine: This popular butter substitute has been known to aggravate PMR.
  • Fried foods: These foods are high in trans fats, which can increase your bad cholesterol.
  • Foods with added sugar: Excess sugar can cause inflammation as well as weight gain.
  • Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil: Commercially made foods, including pizza dough, pie crust, cookies, and crackers are made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. This oil is a trans fat. Back in 2009, a study published in Arthritis Research linked trans fat with an increased risk for peripheral arterial disease.
  • Low fiber starches: Cornflakes, puffed rice, and instant potatoes are low fiber starches that have a high glycemic index and a big impact on your blood sugar and your level of inflammation.
  • Sugary treats: Candies, syrup, and soft drinks are all high glycemic and should be avoided if you have PMR.

Sample Meal Plan for PMR

Some people may find it hard to get started on a polymyalgia rheumatica diet, so here is a sample meal plan that includes two options for each meal.


  • A bowl of fortified cereal with dairy or plant-based milk, sprinkled with blueberries.
  • A couple of eggs and salmon on whole wheat bread


  • A turkey breast sandwich using home-cooked turkey made with wholemeal bread.
  • A tuna salad


  • Baked cod and a side of steamed vegetables
  • Chicken along with steamed vegetables and brown rice


  • Mix of almonds and walnuts
  • Fresh fruit

Tips to Consider While Following Polymyalgia Rheumatica Diet

While sample meal plans can be helpful, the following PMR diet tips can also make it easier to adopt a routine of healthy eating.

Make one small change at a time. For instance, try drinking more water every day for a week or replace processed snacks with fresh fruit.

Ask for support. Meal planning with family or friends will make you more likely to follow through. Get organized. It is easier to stick with a new diet if you have all the right foods stocked in your kitchen and you have a couple hours set aside every week to plan meals.

Experiment with flavor. For example, if you don’t normally eat salmon, try putting a little bit of honey and mustard over it before you bake it.

Consider eliminating items from your diet that you might be sensitive to or are common allergens, such as gluten or dairy to see if your symptoms subside.

Motive yourself with rewards. For example, if you eat well, get a new pair of shoes or a new book that you want to read.

Exercises for Polymyalgia Rheumatica

Exercise for polymyalgia rheumatica typically means light physical activity. The exercises are meant to help improve the symptoms and give you an overall sense of well-being.

People who suffer from PMR report that they find the best results with activities such as walking, cycling, swimming, and light running. Cardio exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight, it also lowers stress on bones and joints. Some people find that lifting light weights is also helpful for the bones.

Flexibility and stretching exercises, including yoga and tai chi moves, are good options. When it comes to yoga, you should take it slowly and advance only if you are comfortable and feel no pain.

With PMR. it’s important to limit stress since it can aggravate symptoms. Deep breathing exercises can be very effective. You can try it lying down. You slowly breathe in and imagine your body relaxing all over. It is a good idea to practice this several times a day. It only takes a few minutes.


It is important to set realistic goals when you’re exercising with PMR. Most people do well when they build their routine slowly in five to 10-minute blocks of time. If you take this approach, before you know it, you will be up to 30 minutes, which is the recommended amount of daily exercise.

Polymyalgia rheumatica is certainly uncomfortable but it can be managed with the right treatment, including diet and exercise. When you feel as if you have tried everything but still aren’t getting better or you are getting worse, you should seek medical attention.

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Author Bio

Mohan Garikiparithi got his degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade before he shifted his focus to the field of health communications. During his active practice he served as the head of the Dept. of Microbiology in a diagnostic centre in India. On a three-year communications program in Germany, Mohan developed a keen interest in German Medicine (Homoeopathy), and other alternative systems of medicine. He now advocates treating different medical conditions without the use of traditional drugs. An ardent squash player, Mohan believes in the importance of fitness and wellness.



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