Myositis is the medical term for inflammation of muscle tissue and one type of muscle arthritis is dermatomyositis. (Without the rash, the condition is called polymyositis.) In this form, there is soreness and inflammation and pain in the muscles but there is also an accompanying dry rash affecting the skin. This rash is commonly seen on the face and neck, chest and back and the shoulders. Heart muscle may also be affected as well as the lung tissues. It is usually dusky and a purplish red color. This is an autoimmune condition and is treated with anti-inflammatory medications including steroids.
Another disease that can be considered muscle arthritis is called fibromyalgia. Along with muscle pain and aches, fibromyalgia can produce pain in the joints and other connective tissue like tendon and ligaments, as well as fatigue, depression, headache, anxiety, sleep problems and numbness in the extremities. To have this diagnosis, symptoms must last at least three months and at least 11 of the 18 trigger points associated with FM must be tender to the touch.
Treatment for FM has until very recently been simply medications directed at relieving pain and specifics for other symptoms, but now medications specifically for fibromyalgia have reached the market and can be prescribed. About 2% of the population has symptoms of FM.
Another muscle arthritis is the systematic illness called lupus. Usually joints are affected but some lupus patients also have muscle aches and pain associated with the condition. Lupus is treated with corticosteroids and other immune system modifiers. Symptoms of lupus can include a butterfly shaped rash across the face, fevers, fatigue, multiple joint arthritis and many other symptoms. Blood work can help to make the diagnosis. Lupus is also an autoimmune disease and the cause is not known. It is about ten times as common in men as it is in women.
Finally, there is polymyalgia rheumatica. The symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica are moderate to severe muscle pain and the location is almost always in or near the neck, shoulders and hips and can come on very suddenly. In virtually every case, a person with polymyalgia rheumatica will have an abnormally high red blood cell sedimentation rate. This disease is often associated with a serious vascular affliction called polyarteritis or sometimes giant cell arteritis in which blood vessels become inflamed. However, prompt treatment usually controls both conditions or polymyalgia rheumatica alone.
A corticosteroid like prednisone is usually given and will produce a remission which can last some time. If the condition recurs, the drug is restarted and can control symptoms. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications are also used. The disease may also go away on its own but this can take a year or more.
One last form of muscle arthritis is a side effect of drugs given to lower cholesterol called lipid reducing drugs or statins. While not common, this condition called rhabdomyolysis can have serious implications including kidney and heart damage. Persons taking statins need to report any unusual muscle aches and pains to their physicians at once.
While muscle arthritis can be painful and frightening, most forms of it do respond well to treatment. The most important thing is to report muscle pains to a physician, learn the cause, and to then use appropriate treatments for whichever condition is to blame.