Dysfunctional Thyroid and Pain

Have pain, stiffness, tenderness or swelling in your muscles, tendons and joints? The source of it sometimes can originate in your throat – your thyroid gland, to be precise.

“If your thyroid isn’t functioning properly, you can experience higher pain levels,” notes Dr. Rey Ximenes of Balcones Pain Consultants. “This is particularly a problem for those already suffering from chronic muscle or joint pain.”

The thyroid controls metabolism, the bodily process of turning food into energy. If you aren’t producing enough thyroid hormone, your body’s processes slow down. Besides pain, symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue, even after eight or more hours of sleep nightly
  • Slow heart rate
  • Difficulty concentrating or poor memory
  • Feeling cold, particularly hands and feet
  • Weight gain or inability to lose weight, despite diminished appetite
  • Constipation
  • Dry skin
  • Course hair or hair loss
  • Brittle finger or toe nails
  • Hoarse voice, neck swelling or unusual snoring
  • Heavier or lighter than normal menstrual bleeding or irregular periods
  • Milky discharge from breasts

As many as 25 million in the U.S. have thyroid problems – and about half of them are unaware they do. Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) accounts for 90 percent of all imbalances; hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) the rest.

Women, particularly those older than 50, are 10 times more likely to be afflicted. Genetics can be a factor, though thyroid disease often skips generations. Smoking significantly increases risk.

Left untreated, hypothyroidism can lead to heart problems, infertility and obesity, as well as continued pain. If thyroid hormones drops to a very low level, it can be life-threatening.

Common over-the-counter pain relievers (ibuprofen, acetaminophen) can help, but thyroid hormone replacement may be necessary to provide substantial pain relief. Blood tests can determine if you have a thyroid problem or something else, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Based on test results, your doctor can decide to prescribe medication or redo blood tests in several months.

A standard, daily drug treatment for hypothyroidism is a synthetic hormone called levothyroxine. How much levothyroxine you need can depend on your diet (higher the fiber, the higher the dose) and other medications you’re taking.

You can learn more by scheduling an appointment with one of our physicians.