Many hypothyroid patients complain of muscle and joint pain being among the most bothersome hypothyroid symptoms. As well as the intense fatigue an underactive thyroid causes, aches, pains, stiffness and weakness in joints (such as the knees and fingers) and muscles (such as the calves, back and feet) are well reported. I’ve had horrid experience with it myself.
It can keep us awake at night, cause us to need regular painkillers just to get through the day and make physical activity difficult to bear.
Yes, it is expected that muscle pain will appear after a long walk, workout or other activity that has caused overexertion, but it shouldn’t be expected as part of your day to day life when you haven’t exerted your muscles very much. But it does haunt many patients living with hypothyroidism, whether they do much physically all day or not.
Yep muscle and joint pain can be another symptom of hypothyroidism.
Muscle and joint pain caused by hypothyroidism is known as hypothyroid myopathy, and can occur all over the body, though most commonly in the legs, feet, arms, hands and back and can range from mild to severe. It also includes cramping, stiffness and weakness, but hypothyroid myopathy can also lead to carpal tunnel syndrome or frozen shoulder. Some thyroid patients may also have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a separate condition that causes pain all over the body or at specific points, when they are actually experiencing hypothyroid myopathy.
These symptoms are often caused by thyroid levels being below optimal (optimal meaning a midrange or higher Free T4, a Free T3 in the top quarter of the given range, RT3 low in range (ratio over 20) and a TSH below 2), low magnesium levels, low vitamin D levels or even adrenal fatigue. Therefore, ensuring that all your thyroid levels are optimal (note: not just TSH or Free T4, all of them), supplementing magnesium, vitamin D or using Epsom salts for baths/foot soaks and exploring whether you have adrenal fatigue and subsequently treating it, could help you resolve the symptoms. High Reverse T3 or low Free T3 levels in particular should be checked for.
Fluid retention, another somewhat common hypothyroid symptom, can cause pain, too. It’s most often seen around the ankles and feet and worsens with physical activity. This is also often solved with optimal thyroid and vitamin levels.
Other short term treatments for hypothyroid myopathy can include massaging the affected area/s, which increases blood flow and eases aches and pains or a warm bath/foot soak which helps to relax muscles, bonus points if you use Epsom salts, which is a popular trick for relaxing and relieving tired and achey muscles, among other things (I love long, relaxing Epsom baths). You can get the ones I use by clicking on the photo below or by clicking here.
Magnesium spray is also popular if you prefer to not add another supplement or tablet to your daily regime and acupuncture has been helpful to some thyroid patients, too. A magnesium spray that is particularly popular with thyroid patients is this one.
Of course, checking all your vitamin levels such as iron, ferritin, B12, D etc. is very beneficial too, as any that are low can cause fatigue among other pesky symptoms, such as muscle weakness. Vitamin D can especially cause joint stiffness and pain, so ensuring your levels are optimal is key.
But if you’ve checked all of this and are still suffering, it may be time to talk to a rheumatologist for further evaluation. Rheumatologists are experts in joint and muscle problems, and treat arthritis, some autoimmune conditions, various musculoskeletal pain disorders, fibromyalgia and tendonitis.
You can click on the hyperlinks in the above post to learn more and see references to information given, but more reading and references can also be found at:
Rachel, The Invisible Hypothyroidism
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