Guest Author - Jim Lowrance
Over the past few years, I have corresponded with many thyroid patients with Hashimoto’s Disease, the autoimmune type hypothyroidism. Patients with the disease complain of many symptoms they experience with this disease that are caused by antibodies attacking the thyroid gland, causing it to hypo-function but one of the more common ones I hear repeated by patients, is mild to moderate “joint and muscle pain”. This particular symptom is also one of those that seems to linger in some patients, months or even years after starting treatment for their hypothyroidism, with hormone replacement medication.
Some patients actually experience a worsening of their joint/muscle pain, once beginning thyroid medication and this was the experience I personally had, after beginning treatment with hormone replacement for Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism. I cannot explain this particular phenomena but know for a fact patients do experience it, until their bodies adjust completely to their thyroid medication.
What aspect of this disease, results in the concerning symptoms that affect the patient’s joints and muscles? There are many contributing factors however, I believe two of the main causes, are inflammation and decreased blood circulation, from slowed metabolism.
The inflammation aspect, is from the autoimmune process, that causes antibodies to attack the thyroid gland, resulting in high levels of inflammation. This inflammation first affects the area of the thyroid gland itself but it is my belief, that over time, continuing inflammation, is going to eventually have a systemic affect and travel to other parts of the body. I also believe it is no coincidence that autoimmune disease thyroid patients often complain of their joint pain, first manifesting more severely, in their shoulders and cervical (upper) spine area. These are the joints that are closest to the thyroid! Over time, these joint pains, can spread to the other areas of the body, sometimes all the way down to the feet and all the way out to the fingertips.
Inflammation also tends to lead to stiffness in the joints as well, due to mild swelling and fluid around the joints, caused by the release of histamines that are also sent out by the immune system, that act as agents to overwhelm bacterial and viral intruders and reduce inflammation.
Most patients see improvement of rheumatic symptoms with hormone replacement therapy to treat their hypothyroidism but if relief is minimal, they may need to be blood tested for co-morbid arthritis, including the autoimmune types.