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What does muscle pain from hypothyroidism feel like?

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid, is a common condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones play an important role in regulating metabolism, heart rate, body temperature, and muscle function. When thyroid hormone levels are low, it can cause a variety of symptoms, including muscle aches and pains.

Common Locations of Muscle Pain

Muscle pain caused by hypothyroidism can occur in many areas of the body, but there are some common locations where it tends to manifest most often:

  • Arms – Biceps, triceps, forearms
  • Legs – Thighs, calves, hamstrings
  • Shoulders
  • Neck
  • Back

The pain may affect both sides of the body symmetrically or may be more pronounced on one side. The muscles can feel stiff, sore, or achy even at rest. The discomfort typically worsens with movement or exercise.

Characterization of the Muscle Pain

People describe hypothyroid-related muscle pain in many ways, including:

  • Dull and aching – A persistent, nagging type of pain that produces general muscle soreness.
  • Stabbing – Brief, sharp pains that feel like the muscle is being stabbed with needles.
  • Stiffness – Muscles feel rigid, inflexible, and difficult to move.
  • Cramping – Involuntary and prolonged muscle contractions that do not relax, causing tightness and spasms.
  • Heaviness – Muscles feel weighted down, fatigued, and difficult to lift or use.
  • Weakness – Muscles lack strength and energy, feel shaky and weak.

The intensity of the pain can range from mild to severe. It may be localized in a specific muscle group or generalized throughout the body. Flare ups are also common, where the pain intermittently worsens before easing off again.

What Causes These Muscle Pains?

There are a few reasons why hypothyroidism commonly causes muscle discomfort:

  • Low metabolism – Thyroid hormones control metabolism. With low thyroid function, metabolic processes slow down, reducing energy production in muscles.
  • Poor circulation – Hypothyroidism reduces blood flow, decreasing oxygen and nutrient delivery to muscles.
  • Inflammation – Thyroid hormone imbalance can trigger widespread inflammation and swelling in muscle tissues.
  • Muscle damage – Without sufficient thyroid hormones, muscles are more prone to overexertion damage and strain injuries.
  • Nerve compression – Fluid accumulation can compress nerves, causing muscle pain, tingling, and numbness.

Together, these effects of hypothyroidism impair muscle function, repair, and regeneration, making them achy, tender, and weak.

Common Triggers for Hypothyroid Muscle Pain

While muscle pain from hypothyroidism can occur at any time, there are some common triggers that tend to exacerbate it:

  • Exercise/physical activity – Using and straining the muscles can aggravate pain and stiffness.
  • Cold weather – The cold causes muscles to tighten up and become stiffer.
  • Stress – Increased cortisol levels from stress inflame muscles.
  • Sitting still – Prolonged immobility makes muscles feel stiff and sore.
  • Morning – Overnight inactivity allows muscle stiffness to set in.
  • Evening – Muscle fatigue accumulates throughout the day.

Avoiding triggers where possible and performing gentle stretches can help manage the pain flare ups.

Hypothyroidism Muscle Pain vs. Normal Muscle Soreness

It can sometimes be difficult to determine if muscle aches are a symptom of an underlying thyroid problem or just normal muscle soreness. Here are a few differences:

Hypothyroidism Muscle Pain Normal Muscle Soreness
– Persists even with rest – Resolves with rest
– Associated with other hypothyroid symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, dry skin – Not accompanied by other systemic symptoms
– Felt even without exertion or injury – Follows unaccustomed/strenuous exercise
– Not limited to recently used muscle groups – Most pronounced in muscles that were worked
– Lasts for weeks to months – Gradually improves over a few days

Seeking Medical Evaluation

If you are experiencing persistent, widespread muscle aches and pain along with fatigue, weight changes, or other hypothyroid-type symptoms, it is a good idea to see your doctor for evaluation. They can check for thyroid dysfunction and other potential causes of muscle pain through:

  • Physical exam
  • Thyroid function blood tests
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Creatine kinase (CK) test
  • Inflammatory markers

Based on the results, appropriate treatment can be initiated. Hypothyroidism can usually be easily managed with oral thyroid hormone replacement medication to resolve muscle symptoms.

Treatment Options for Hypothyroidism Muscle Pain

Aside from treating the underlying thyroid hormone deficiency, some other remedies that may help provide relief include:

  • Heat/cold therapy – Heat relaxes muscles while cold reduces inflammation.
  • Light stretching – Gentle stretches enhance flexibility and range of motion.
  • Massage – Helps relax tight muscles and increase blood flow.
  • Epsom salt baths – Magnesium sulfate is absorbed through skin to ease muscle tension.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication – Ibuprofen or acetaminophen can alleviate muscle aches.
  • Rest and recovery – Avoiding overexertion gives muscles time to heal.

While not proven for hypothyroidism specifically, some supplements like fish oil, turmeric, and magnesium may also help reduce general muscle pain and inflammation.

When to See a Doctor

You should consult your doctor promptly if you experience:

  • – Severe muscle weakness affecting your mobility
  • – Widespread muscle pain that does not respond to treatment
  • – Tingling, numbness, or burning sensations in the muscles
  • – Unexplained weight changes, fatigue, or other concerning symptoms

Sudden or severe muscle pain can signify issues like electrolyte abnormalities, vitamin deficiencies, nerve compression, or thyroid storm requiring urgent medical care.

Coping with Hypothyroid Muscle Discomfort

Here are some tips to help manage your muscle pain from hypothyroidism:

  • Get regular light/moderate exercise like walking, swimming, or yoga to improve muscle function without overexertion.
  • Maintain good posture and ergonomics at work and home to reduce strain.
  • Apply cold packs after activity and hot packs before activity to alleviate stiffness.
  • Make dietary changes like eating anti-inflammatory foods and ensuring adequate vitamin D, B12, and magnesium intake.
  • Use assistive devices like braces or supports if needed for joint/muscle support.
  • Get a massage or try acupuncture sessions for pain relief every few weeks.


Muscle aches, pain, stiffness, cramping, and weakness can all be bothersome symptoms of hypothyroidism. The discomfort tends to occur symmetrically in the arms, legs, neck, shoulders, and back due to the metabolic, circulatory, and inflammatory effects of low thyroid hormone on muscles. It can range from mild to severe and come and go in flares triggered by exertion, weather, and other factors. Getting thyroid function tested and pursuing treatment for any deficiency can help resolve associated muscle problems. Certain home remedies and lifestyle measures may also aid in managing the pain. With proper thyroid management, muscle pain symptoms usually improve substantially, providing relief from this uncomfortable manifestation of hypothyroidism.