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Muscle and Joint Pain Associated with Hypothyroidism

Muscle and Joint Pain Associated with Hypothyroidism

An individual receives a medical inspection og their arm.
Dr. Katie Rothwell
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.


Key Takeaways

  • 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
    • Analgesics 
    • Anti-Inflammatory Diet
    • Physical Therapy
    • Thyroid Medication
    • Sleep
    • 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.

FAQs

Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, constipation, and muscle and joint pain. Muscle and joint pain can significantly impact daily life and may require management strategies to alleviate discomfort.

Hypothyroidism can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness, as well as joint inflammation, which manifests as pain and discomfort. This occurs due to the slowing down of bodily processes, including metabolism and circulation, resulting in reduced muscle strength and joint mobility.

Yes, certain foods rich in nutrients like selenium, iodine, vitamin D, and zinc can support thyroid function and may indirectly alleviate muscle and joint pain. For instance, foods like eggs, nuts, salmon, and yogurt mentioned in the article provide essential nutrients that contribute to overall thyroid health and may help manage symptoms, including muscle and joint pain.

In addition to dietary changes, incorporating regular exercise and physical activity tailored to individual capabilities can help improve muscle strength, flexibility, and joint function. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional to develop a personalized exercise plan that considers any existing medical conditions or limitations.

Disclaimer

At ThyForLife, we do our utmost to provide accurate information. For detailed medical information regarding diagnosis, treatment, and general practices please consult your healthcare professional. Always listen to the advice of your healthcare provider.
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