Polimyalgia Rheumatica

In 1998 I was reasonably fit; enjoyed playing badminton at match level and worked full-time as an educational psychologist, which demanded a big commitment in terms of time and energy. Early in the year I went on vacation to Texas to visit my son and was quite happy and relaxed. My only health problems at this time were periodic severe migraines (which I had had since being about 20 years old) and an increasing amount of headaches. The headaches were actually almost becoming a weekly phenomenon. My only other problems looking back, were poor circulation and occasional back/neck pains that I thought were just signs of ageing and nothing different to anyone else of my age. During that Texan holiday at the beginning of the year, I didn’t realise that 1998 would be the year that would provide a major dip in my health.


In May 1998, I went on a second holiday to Portugal and it was immediately after this holiday that my troubles started. A few weeks after returning, I caught what I thought was a cold. However, although it portrayed flu-like symptoms, the virus went through the stages of a cold much quicker than normal and more severe. Immediately after these symptoms cleared up, I then got violent headaches to the extent that I was taking painkillers all day on a daily basis. The headaches were continuous apart from a couple of hours immediately after taking the painkillers and were also debilitating. They would wake me up in the middle of the night, so that I found myself pacing the floor and increasing the dosage more and more. After about five weeks, the headaches mysteriously stopped, but in August I then started with an aching at the top of my legs – as if I’d been riding a bike for the first time in months! I dismissed this at first, but the aching gradually got worse and also spread further down my thighs, to my knees and into my calves. By the end of August I could barely walk because the pain was so unbearable. I went to my GP who was mystified and put me on more painkillers. These had no effect at all and the pain continued becoming more and more debilitating and gradually started spreading up my spine into the middle of my back. I went back to my GP who then tried me on anti-inflammatory drugs – again to no avail. He talked about referring me to a specialist, but nothing happened. In the meantime, I was becoming increasingly handicapped. It took me three quarters of an hour to get dressed in a morning. If I dropped anything, I felt like crying knowing that I would have to bend down in order to pick it up. I had to physically lift my leg to transfer my foot from the accelerator to brake when driving my car and even getting in and out of the car was a huge effort. I struggled on, trying not to make a fuss or upset my family, but as time passed I just got worse and worse. My husband said that I cried in pain whilst asleep when trying to turn over in bed. In the mornings, I had to roll over and fall out of bed in order to get up. During the day I would want to go to bed to rest to get away from the pain, but at night I could barely move in bed and when I woke in the mornings I was even stiffer than the previous night.


Eventually I decided to return to my GP in October 1998 and demand to see a specialist. He was sympathetic and said that this was already on the way, but asked me to try a “short, sharp course of steroids” over the weekend to test a theory that he had. At first I refused, not wanting to put myself on drugs of this calibre, but he persuaded me that it would only be for the weekend and I might be surprised. I was! Within only three hours of taking 40 milligrams of Prednisolone, I was virtually pain free and back to normal. I continued taking the prescribed dose over the weekend and hadn’t felt so well since way back in the May. When I saw my GP again, he confirmed that I had Polimyalgia Rheumatica and said that I would have an appointment with a specialist in rheumatology before long. In the meantime I had to continue with the steroids gradually reducing them until I was taking only 10 milligrams a day.


The next two years proved to be a merry-go-round of attempting to get off the steroids, because I knew the long term effects were not good for me, but each time I reduced the intake, the debilitating pains would return. The specialist took blood tests every time I visited and my E.S.R. continued to be at a raised level throughout. I could control the illness by taking a high level of steroids, but I did not want to take them, so constantly strove to wean myself off them. My weight increased. I tried going to Weight Watchers to control my weight and I thought ‘healthy eating’ would help, but then I would get depressed and binge eat for a while.

Whilst all of this was going on with my life, by elderly mother’s health was also deteriorating and as she worried about me, I tried to act as if nothing was wrong at the same time as trying to look after her and hold down a stressful job. In July 2000, my mother died and I was devastated, but I suddenly found I had time on my hands to concentrate on myself.

My brother had given me the telephone number of Atul Shah, a naturopath in York. He had been told about Atul by a neighbour of his who had had similar problems and was vastly improved as a result of seeing him. Eventually I decided to give him a ring, and by chance he had a cancellation that day (normally there is a waiting list of about six weeks). My husband and I then drove off to York and I had a two-hour consultation with Atul and thorough medical. He took a full family medical background; my own medical background; listened in detail to the problems; questioned my eating habits; questioned my lifestyle; my hobbies; work; etc. and also gave me a medical check up.

At the end of the two hours, he declared that he could not cure me, but he could improve the quality of my life if I followed his advice. This was the beginning of the road to improvement. Atul never asked me to take any drugs – quite the opposite. He actually discouraged me from using any form of medication, painkillers or otherwise. I was still taking the steroids, but he even helped me gradually wean myself off these over the following year. He asked me to change my diet, quite drastically but advised me to only eat fresh and healthy food. I cut out caffeine quite quickly completely from my diet and avoided wheat products. I ate salad daily and lots of vegetables and everything that I ate was fresh, rather than processed, frozen or pre-packed. At first I did not notice any great change in my health, but I went to see Atul once a fortnight and he continued to support me both physically and mentally. He told me about ‘Nature Cure’ on each visit and warned that as the toxins left my body, I might even get worse in the first instance. He was right! After about a month of seeing him, I had a flare-up and I ended up pacing the bedroom floor again in a lot of pain. I resisted taking painkillers however and saw Atul the next day. Again, he supported me and massaged my hips and legs. This happened two or three times before eventually I began to improve. My weight began to reduce. My aches and pains became gradually less and I began to reduce the steroids. By Xmas, I had lost one and a half stone and was walking and feeling much better. On top of this, I realised that I had not had a headache since beginning this way of life, and my blood circulation had improved. My health continued to improve over the coming year.

It’s now November 2001 and I have never felt so well. I have been virtually pain free in my legs and hips for a few months now. I am not on any medication at all. I have lost three stone in weight and my friends say all of the time how well I look. As predicted, the illness is still with me, but I am so much healthier now and I can live a normal life, not supported by drugs, only by Atul. I have more vitality, am healthier than before I actually got this disease and can look forward to life. I bless the day that my brother gave me Atul’s phone number and cannot recommend him enough to anyone with health problems.

CS – E Yorks