Maximizing patient benefit through a reversed pathway from specialist to generalist: the case of chronic pain
Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) is a syndrome characterized by chronic pain and/or stiffness in the neck, shoulders or upper arms and hips. It affects adult patients usually over 50 years old and is treated with low-dose oral corticosteroids. In this case, a 68-year-old female with a history of PMR, diagnosed by a specialist sporadically seen in the past, presented to a primary care physician due to herpes zoster (HZ) infection. Thorough history taking, along with a careful review of previous laboratory results, raised serious doubts concerning her diagnosis (PMR). Because the patient described diffuse pain throughout her body, sleep disturbances and a depressed emotional state, fibromyalgia was suspected instead and appropriate treatment was given. The patient remained free of symptoms and corticosteroids for almost a year. Information from this case may help to point out that PMR is a disorder that can be easily confused with other chronic pain conditions with similar manifestations, especially when the initial diagnosis is sped up in terms of consultation depth and care continuity. Under certain circumstances, primary care can lead to improved clinical outcomes.