Thyroid Dysfunction: a hidden cause of joint pain.

By Sara A Nelson, DPT

Over years of providing physical therapy in the outpatient setting, patterns become more apparent.  One pattern I became aware of was women with joint pain and underactive thyroid glands.  When I went searching, I found the connection.

The thyroid gland is a small butterfly shaped organ at the front of the throat.  Although small, it has far reaching effects in the body.  Thyroid hormone regulates metabolism and growth.  It has an effect on many functions including breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels and more!

When the thyroid produces too much hormone, symptoms include anxiety, nervousness, trembling, and hair loss.  When there aren’t enough thyroid hormones, symptoms include fatigue, dry skin and hair, depression, sensitivity to cold, and joint and muscle pain!

There are several possible causes for thyroid dysfunction.  If you suspect you have problems you need a thorough evaluation by a medical doctor.  Genetic predisposition can play a role.

Autoimmune thyroiditis, also called Hashimoto’s disease, is seven times more common in females compared to males. Did you now that 4-10% of women will develop postpartum thyroid inflammation during the first year after giving birth?  About 20% of these women develop Hashimoto’s disease in later years.

Treating the inflammation can assist with reducing joint pain and help you have a healthier thyroid gland.  Good thyroid function is supported with a healthy diet, exercise, rest and stress management.  Yes, one more reason to develop your health habits!  Learning how to exercise when inflammation is present may take the help of a professional (like a physical therapist!)  to find how to move without aggravating joints and worsening inflammation.  There are some special diet recommendations that come from natural medicine.  You can consult a naturopath for more information on that approach for healthy thyroid.

Don’t wait for problems to develop.  It is much more cost effective to prevent than cure!

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