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How Your Thyroid Causes Joint Ache

Suffering from joint pain? You might have pulled a muscle — or have this unusual condition.

Joint pain. You've experienced it, or expect to as you get older — a sense of tenderness, ache or heat in your knees, hands, hips or elsewhere in the body. It's one of the most common physical complaints—and one potential cause of it might surprise you.

What causes joint pain?

Joint pain can result from muscle strain, the joint inflammation known as arthritis or bursitis, gout or a number of other conditions. One that doesn't get much press is an underactive thyroid, otherwise known as hypothyroidism.

What is hypothyroidism?

The main function of your thyroid — the butterfly-shaped gland just below your Adam's apple — is to produce two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). That dynamic duo has a major effect on your metabolism and overall health. According to the Harvard Health Letter, those hormones travel from the thyroid through the bloodstream to distant parts of the body, including the brain, heart, liver and bones.

Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn't produce enough of one or both of those hormones. According to the Mayo Clinic, that can slow your metabolism, producing a range of symptoms such as fatigue, increased sensitivity to cold, weight gain, depression, muscle pain or weakness — and aching or swollen joints. Women and people over 60 are at increased risk for hypothyroidism, but anyone can develop the condition.

Why does hypothyroidism cause joint pain?

When the metabolism slows, fluid can build up between the joints, causing swelling and pain.

What is the treatment?

If you're suffering from joint pain caused by hypothyroidism, your doctor may prescribe thyroid hormone in pill form, to bring your levels back to where they should be.

There are a number of things you can do to alleviate the symptoms of joint pain caused by hypothyroidism, including low-impact exercise, maintaining a healthy weight to reduce stress on the joints, getting plenty of sleep (experts recommend seven to nine hours) and eating an anti-inflammatory or thyroid boosting-diet, like these recommended by Eat This, Not That!

But it's important not to self-diagnose or self-treat. Remember, joint pain could have a number of other causes, so it's important to thoroughly investigate its source. Osteoarthritis (the wearing-down of cartilage between joints) and rheumatoid arthritis (painful swelling of the joint lining) are more common.


It underscores how important it is that if you're experiencing joint pain or another bothersome symptom, don't just chalk it up to getting older. Remember: Pain is your body's signal that something's wrong. If frequent joint pain is troubling you, see your primary care doctor, who may provide a referral to a rheumatologist.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael
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