Pain and Thyroid Disease: Could it Be Affecting You?

One of our readers wrote in with a great question today regarding hypothyroidism and muscle pain. She was experiencing sharp stabbing pain in her calf muscle and asks if this could be related to having low thyroid problems.

So here’s our Thyroid Question of the Day:

Q: Could my leg pain be related to my hypothyroidism?

A: Obviously, anytime you have pain of some sort you should consult with your physician. And even if your physician is not concerned, if your pain is not relieved or gets worse, it is a good idea to get a second opinion.

Be particularly vigilant about any leg pain if you site a lot for your job, and/or if you’ve recently been traveling. Sometimes travel or sitting in the same position for extended periods can trigger a blood clot. Your doctor will examine you for swelling and localized pain to make sure that it is not a blood clot causing your symptoms.

If you’ve been thoroughly evaluated by a medical professional and you’ve been given a clean bill of health, then let’s talk about some other causes for pain and in particular, discuss if this could be related to having hypothyroidism.

thyroidandpain Low Thyroid Levels can cause all kinds of problems. And at first glance, these multiple problems may seem unrelated.  But when you stop for a minute and think about it—it makes sense why thyroid disease patients may have more pain than someone without thyroid disease.

Since low thyroid affects all cells in the body, things like our metabolism, and the mitochondrial processes of the cells–are impacted.  Here’s one example which can help understand how the thyroid is involved in our bodily processes.

When we move our muscles, there is a constant ebb/flow of things like sodium,  calcium, potassium, magnesium and other substances that are needed by our body to keep our electrolytes in balance.   Our muscles need fuel, called glycogen,  to work, and a waste product called  lactic acid, can build up in the body and then these wastes need to be flushed out.  You can get pains after exercising or even after walking, especially if you’re not accustomed to doing activities and there are microscopic tears in the muscle which can form  and/or a build up of lactic acid and/or inflammation.

So back to the thyroid…low thyroid, affects not only the movement of fuels into the cells and muscles, but the movement out. Remember, everything slows down when the thyroid is sluggish.  And depending upon your situation, those with Hashimotos, for example have increased inflammation in their body from the thyroid gland being attacked by antibodies. If waste products aren’t removed quickly enough…you can also get inflammation.

So, could leg pains be a result of low thyroid? Yes, they could, but it’s good that you brought this up with your doctor and if it continues or is problematic, it may be good to get a 2nd opinion.

Pain Interventions that You Can Discuss with your Physician:

1. Make sure you’re on an adequate dose of thyroid medication (Free T3, and Free T4 in good ranges) If you have thyroid antibodies either elevated TPO or TG Antibodies, it may be a good idea to have a lower or even suppressed TSH to reduce the attack or inflammation in your thyroid gland

2. Drink enough water, Dehydration can also lead to a build up of waste products in the cells, and hydration is important for many bodily functions including the reduction of inflammation.  If you’re dehydrated, fluids can build up in the tissues, guess what? Causing inflammation, so make sure that you are drinking water throughout the day and watch out for things that can be dehydrating

3. B12 deficiencies can also cause what’s called neuropathy which can be quite painful. The unfortunate element for thyroid patients is that many times physicians are not adequately educated on the importance of B12 and/or do not understand that in the US, low normal serum B12 readings can actually lead to permanent nerve damage if not corrected in time. Furthermore, the US range for B12 is thought by some to be far too low. Japan’s range is 1.5 x higher than the US and even with serum B12 levels in the midrange, some patients report neuropathy and/or other types of pain.

B12, because of it’s anti-inflammatory properties,  can be helpful for patients with various types of aches and pains. Because it’s water soluble, any excess is simply eliminated in the body through the urine. Physicians again, may not be adequately educated to do the proper testing for B12 which for those patients who are already supplementing B12, would involve a urinary MMA, serum homocysteine test, and finally, a serum B12. Folate is also generally tested along with B12 because many times deficiencies in one may also appear in another.  For those physicians who are not doing all three (3) B12 tests, then sometimes just having the patient do a  trial of B12 injections can be a reasonable intervention, especially if a patient is dealing with ongoing pain.  Injections are preferred over oral administration of B12 because absorbability and conversion  issues. Some patients may benefit from sublingual administration of B12, however, since some patients are not able to convert the B12 into an active form through sublingual or oral routes, an inject able form of B12 is sometimes used to determine if there is improvement in the patient’s symptoms after using it.

4. Look at the electrolyte levels: Low potassium levels can also cause pain. Sometimes even patients with low normal potassium could benefit from adding sources of potassium to their diet such as bananas or pure coconut water.   Coconut water has more electrolytes and 15 times more potassium than the leading sports drinks and more potassium than 2 bananas.

Magnesium is another viable intervention, especially in the form of magnesium glycinate, more readily absorbable. Magnesium oxide is not advised to be used as it is very difficult to digest and hard  on the gastrointestinal system.  Sometimes a warm bath with Epsom Salts is a good way to relax the muscles, as well as get some magnesium into the body through the skin during the bath.  Low calcium levels or even low normal calcium levels can cause leg cramping or pains, so trying a calcium supplement with your doctor’s permission can also be helpful in some patients.

Pain is generally your body’s way of telling you that something is going wrong. Ignoring pain is not wise,and it’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor if you’re experiencing any type of pain. And to follow up with another doctor for a second opinion, if you did not feel like your concerns were addressed appropriately or that your pain was dismissed.

Low thyroid, or hypothyroidism can affect the body in multiple ways.  Making sure that your hypothyroidism is treated appropriately will help you not only avoid pain, but can help you feel better in all aspects of your life.