Medically reviewed by
Dr. Katie Rothwell, ND. Canadian-certified Naturopathic Doctor with a clinical focus in thyroid conditions and Hashimoto’s Disease.
Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos can lead to joint and muscle pain. Those of us with autoimmune hypothyroidism (Hashimoto’s Disease) are at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
The common symptoms are:
- Muscle aches
- Muscle tenderness and or stiffness around shoulders and hips
- Joint pain and stiffness
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Swelling at small joints such as in the hands and feet
What is the link between muscle and joint pain with Hypothyroidism?
Our thyroid gland, at the base of our neck, produces our thyroid hormones such as triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones are important in regulating our metabolism, energy levels, brain, muscle, and bone function.
Hypothyroidism is the condition in which your thyroid gland is underactive, producing less thyroid hormone than your body needs. In this case, your metabolism is regulated even slower along with all other body functions.
When your metabolism is working slower than normal, due to your underactive thyroid, you produce less energy which causes your musculoskeletal system to feel pain and other associative symptoms. There is also potential for fluid bulbs to form within your joints as your metabolism slows which causes swelling associated with joint pain.
In a study conducted by Doctor Golding for Princess Alexandra Hospital, he discovered patients with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, muscle or joint pain were found to have hypothyroidism.
Myopathy or muscle disease associated with hypothyroidism occurs due to the underproduction of thyroxine thyroid hormone. This is not an inherited disease but most people with hypothyroid myopathy have some genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases, hypothyroidism being one.
It’s now understood that those of us with one autoimmune disease are prone to developing another. This is the case for those with hypothyroidism, as they eventually develop rheumatoid arthritis.
Inflammation or swelling of our joints and soft tissues, the common cause of rheumatoid arthritis, is a common symptom also associated with hypothyroidism. You can also have genetic predispositions for both diseases.
How to reduce or treat muscle and joint pain?
Analgesics. Over-the-counter “painkillers” such as Advil or Tylenol can help relieve the pain short term However, long-term or overuse of these medications can cause severe side effects. If you find yourself requiring more of them, it’s best to speak with your doctor for pain relief alternatives.
Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Inflammation is already associated with hypothyroidism, muscle and joint pain, as well as arthritis. Maintaining a well-balanced anti-inflammatory diet will help reduce the effects of inflammation in our bodies and prevent additional inflammation from occurring.
Staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet with an abundance of whole grains, dark leafy greens, lean meats, fresh seafood, non-dairy alternatives, fresh herbs and spices such as turmeric and ginger in your diet will help to reduce inflammation through your food habits.
Physical Therapy. You may potentially find some relief in physical therapy focused on muscle and joint pain. Especially when it comes to stiffness around the shoulders, physical therapy may be able to relieve any tightness and tension you may be experiencing.
Thyroid Medication. Staying connected with your hormone specialist or doctor to receive a proper dosage of hormone medication will prove useful to relieve your symptoms. These symptoms are associated with your hypothyroidism and so treating this should ultimately help your muscle and joint pain.
Sleep. Getting restful sleep is often a challenge for those with hypothyroidism, but it is very important to let your muscles rest and recover. Try to implement a consistent sleep schedule, meditate beforehand, try some breathwork, stretch, or drink chamomile tea.
Stress management. Living with a chronic illness, especially one which causes physical pain, can take a toll on your physical and mental health. People living with hypothyroidism often experience depression and anxiety. It’s important to find your way of managing stress. Meditation and yoga have proven to be quite useful in helping us rest our minds and relieve stress.
Movement and Weight Management. Taking part in low-impact exercises such as walking, biking, and swimming (aerobic exercises) will allow you to manage your weight and place less stress on your joints. Weight gain is an occurrence with hypothyroidism that can lead to pain in our joints and muscles. Moving up to exercises with weight will help strengthen your muscles and support your joints.
- Muscle and joint pain are associated with hypothyroidism
- Hypothyroidism causes our metabolism to work slower, producing less energy in our bodies and causing our musculoskeletal system to feel stress or pain.
- Oftentimes one autoimmune disease can lead to another, so Hashimoto’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes co-exist. If you are experiencing worsening joint pain and swelling, specifically in your fingers, ask your doctor about being evaluated for rheumatoid arthritis.
- Relieving muscle and joint pain
- Anti-Inflammatory Diet
- Physical Therapy
- Thyroid Medication
- Stress management
- Movement and weight management
Managing your thyroid health on top of dealing with joint and muscle pain associated with Hypothyroidism can be extremely tough at times. If you’re looking for support or are curious as to what other people with thyroid conditions are doing, then try our ThyForLife app and visit the News & Community section. There you can ask and answer questions anonymously with other community members, participate in daily polls and discussions, and gain access to more medically reviewed content like this article.
At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. If you require more detailed information regarding medical terms, conditions, and practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider.