Alternative treatment?

I am an Holistic Therapist and have been approached by an 89 year old who is looking to try an alternative approach for polymyalgia. As I am not familiar with the condition, other than what I have read on this site, I wonder if anyone has tried any alternative, eg massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, reiki, and whether they have found it helpful. I would like to try and help this client but do not want to give false hope.

Thank you.

8 Replies

This condition carries a high risk of stroke and cardiac emergency if not treated with steroids or methotrexate or one of the standard treatments. :( In addition without using one of these there's a much higher chance of PMR progressing to GCA, which is an emergency condition with high risk of blindness. Sadly I think we all wish there were adequate alternative treatments to avoid steroids etc, but I cannot stress enough that this woman does need to get medical care. She could however enjoy and benefit from complementary treatments and find them beneficial. Massage-related treatments are something many have found helpful but the person doing them needs to be familiar with the condition as otherwise massage can be brutally painful and make things worse, same for any other treatments involving touch. I'd think non-touch treatments like aromatherapy might be very good and calming. Things that help to relax all are good :). I think there was a past PRGCAUK newsletter that had a contribution about complementary treatments? Maybe someone remembers?


Thank you for your reply. I have spoken to the lady by phone and am due to see her tomorrow, so I will know more about how to proceed (or not) then. She told me that she is taking steroids and is under the care of a rheumatologist. She feels that she would like some 'hands on' treatment, so I am thinking probably gentle aromatherapy massage or reiki. Maybe she just wants the help of touch. I am an experienced massage therapist so will adjust the massage to suit her if that is the route we take, and also taking into account her age. I have not treated this condition before, hence asking if anyone has benefited from any complementary therapy.


Hello healthyone

I think the gentle aromatherapy massage you have suggested will be very helpful if my experience with gentle massage and heat treatment by a physio is anything to go by. Obviously not a cure for this painful condition, but it really can give some relief, even if only short-term.

As Sambuca has said, it's so reassuring to hear from someone who is so caring and trying to help a sufferer with this illness. I have previously received a similar enquiry from a caring osteopath about her patient.

It would be lovely to hear from you again as to how your client progresses. Do wish her all the very best.


Hi healthyone12

Nice to see someone trying to help and prepared to ask.

Quite a few complementary therapies can help. But as there is no known cause or cure for PMR it needs to be controlled with Prednisolone and perhaps if necessary other steroid sparing agents, but even with these you still need pred.

It is one of 800 orphan illness most of them auto-immune illnesses.

Send me a pm with your email address, or visit the National website and also,.

Quite a few of us have tried alternatives and whilst they can and do help, not all of them help everybody to manage the pain and relieve the stress of trying to cope. It is a question of finding out what helps you without aggravating the condition.


Thanks so much for your interest in PMR and your efforts to help this lady. If you would like any more clinical information, we have a medical advisory group that we can refer queries to. But as you know, the patient experiences are such a reliable source! Before I had PMR I used to love a firm strong back and shoulder massage, but with PMR I was much too tender to take any pressure on my shoulders or around the buttocks or hips. Foot massage though -now we're talking!


Thank you all for your helpful and kind comments. I saw the lady on Friday and we decided on a gentle aromatherapy massage to shoulders and arms, and also a little on the lower back. As soon as I placed my hands on her shoulders she gave a deep sigh and relaxed completely into the massage. She said that her shoulders felt much looser. I only worked for 30 minutes, as too long can be counterproductive, and we shall see how she feels over the next few days and decide how to best proceed. Thank you again.


Hi there,

I have had PMR for 2.5 years and been diagnosed for 1.5 years. I think it is wonderful that this patient is seeking additional non-traditional help. Before PMR I was ok with regular massage, yoga, etc. After PMR I discovered that I could not tolerate full massage. Would hurt for days after. For some reason the pain gets 'trapped' so you will have to be very gentle. Let patient be your guide. Now, having said this, I have two words to describe surviving PMR: Keep Moving. Even on my worst days and nights I try to do my exercises to the best of my abilitiy on that day. I have a wonderful chiropractor who is well versed in ART and who works hard to treat the trigger points, especially in neck and shoulders and arms. And, be very tuned in to patient complaint of sore scalp, or headache that wraps around from base of skull to eye. Can be symptom of GCA which can result in blindness. I had that type of naggy headache for first 6 months. Gone now. Anyway, good luck to you and your patient.


Thank you for your helpful reply. Unfortunately I have been unable to give a further treatment as yet, as the client's 90 year old husband is ill in hospital so she had to cancel her appointment, so I haven't had any feedback yet. I am hoping that it was helpful and that she will be in a position to continue soon.


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