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The connection between hypothyroidism and joint pain

pain in the knee. pain in the human body on a gray background. black and white photo with red dot

You can expect a muscle pain after a good session of walking/running or working out. But, it is not a good sign if you are facing pain in your joints even without exerting strain on a daily basis. This phenomenon happens to a lot of people and most of them are oblivious to the fact that their condition might be a symptom of a thyroid dysfunction.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism is a condition of the thyroid gland when it is not able to produce enough thyroid glands. This can have an effect on the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, or the thyroid gland itself. While most cases of hypothyroidism have been recorded in people above the age of 50, this does not mean that younger people cannot suffer from this condition.

This condition often takes place because of deficiency in iodine, but there are also many other lesser known causes for this condition, like stress. Some common symptoms of hypothyroidism include muscle cramps, depression, skin dryness, low heart rate, weight gain, fatigue, constipation, etc.

What is a joint pain?

Joints are connections between the bones that help you move around and provide support. Any damage to the joint from injury or disease results in acute pain and can interfere with your movement. There are many different ailments that eventually lead to joint pain, like sprains, gout, bursitis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.

The relation between joint pain and hypothyroidism

It is not uncommon for hypothyroid patients to suffer from joint pain and back pain. The thyroid gland is an important part of the endocrine system and several cases dating as early as 1960 has reported generalized muscle pain in various parts of the body, like ankles, neck, legs, arms, back (upper and lower), wrists, etc.  Most of these cases were made worse with exposure to cold and were sometimes combined with a tingling or numbing sensation.

Joint and muscle pain are also known as hypothyroid myopathy, which can be mild or severe. Hypothyroid myopathy can also lead to frozen shoulder, medically known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Some thyroid patients may also be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a different condition that can cause pain in specific or all parts of the body when they are actually experiencing hypothyroid myopathy.

Several pieces of research on the connection between thyroid conditions and joint pain support the theory that chronic pain of the pelvis, muscles, and joints are common symptoms of autoimmune thyroid problems. In some cases, the pain is only one of the reported symptoms. A further assessment stated that thyroid antibodies were additionally found in blood levels that were free of T3 and/or T4.

These symptoms are often caused by the thyroid levels being below the optimal level (meaning TSH below 2, RT3 ratio over 20, free T3 in the top quarter of the specified range and midrange or higher T4), low vitamin D, low magnesium levels, or simply adrenal fatigue. Therefore, by making sure that all your thyroid levels are on optimal levels, supplementing vitamin D, magnesium, or using Epsom salts for bath or foot soaks can help resolve the symptoms.

Treatment for thyroid related pain in joints

Proper and timely treatment for thyroid-related conditions can help reduce joint pain or similar conditions. Hormone replacement therapy is one of the most common treatments where the regulation of the thyroid hormone level can help resolve muscle aches and joint pain. Epsom salts can also be used to relieve and relax joint pain.

Checking all your vitamins levels, like D, B12, ferritin, and iron can also prove to be beneficial. Low levels of any of these vitamins can lead to fatigue among many other symptoms, like joint pain and muscle weakness.

If medical treatments are not working well enough for you, it might be helpful to consider some other treatments like:

  • Massage: A full body or targeted massage can help stimulate blood circulation and ease muscle pain.
  • Warm shower/bath: Heat naturally relaxes the muscles of the body and is useful for treating temporary muscle tension and cramps.
  • Light exercise: Although it is difficult to move when the thyroid gland is not functioning optimally (joint pain and fatigue are some of its symptoms), exercising lightly can help relieve cramps and pain.
  • Rest: This is the most obvious way to remedy joint pains. Relaxing helps the muscles rest and cope up with joint pains.
  • Magnesium: Unknown to many people joint and muscle pain can be relieved by upping your magnesium levels. But, you must first ask your doctor to check your magnesium levels before you take this step.

Final thoughts

It is important to keep in mind that people with the most common forms of hypothyroidism have greater risks of developing autoimmune diseases, like joint pain. If the swelling, stiffness, or pain does not subside after adequate thyroid treatment, it is a wise idea to consult a doctor. There might be other possible reasons causing the joint pain.

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