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What helps with joint pain from hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism, also known as underactive thyroid disease, is a condition where the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormones. One of the most common symptoms of hypothyroidism is joint pain. Fortunately, there are several ways to help manage joint pain associated with hypothyroidism.

Understanding Joint Pain and Hypothyroidism

The thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) play an important role in regulating metabolism and body functions. When the thyroid does not produce enough of these hormones, it can cause a slowing down of bodily processes, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and joint pain.

Joint pain occurs because low thyroid hormone levels lead to reduced synovial fluid, which lubricates and nourishes joint tissues. This causes inflammation, stiffness, and achiness. The joints most commonly impacted are the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles.

Treatment Options for Joint Pain Relief

The root cause of hypothyroidism must be addressed to fully resolve symptoms like joint pain. This is done through thyroid hormone replacement medication such as levothyroxine. Working with your doctor to find the optimal thyroid hormone dosage can help minimize joint achiness.

In addition to thyroid medication, the following complementary remedies may help relieve joint discomfort:

  • Heat therapy – Applying heating pads or warm compresses to painful joints increases blood circulation and loosens stiffness. Take care not to overheat joints.
  • Cold therapy – Alternating heat with cold packs can reduce inflammation. Wrap joints in ice packs or cold compresses for 10-15 minutes.
  • Light exercise – Low impact activities like walking, swimming, or yoga help lubricate joints and strengthen muscles for added support. Avoid overexertion which can worsen pain.
  • Massage – Gentle rubbing and kneading of sore joints can help relax tight muscles and stimulate blood flow. Use topical anti-inflammatory gels to enhance effects.
  • Acupuncture – This traditional Chinese practice places tiny needles in specific body points to relieve pain and balance energy flow. Ensure working with a licensed acupuncturist.
  • Pain medication – Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can temporarily alleviate joint aches and swelling.

Lifestyle Tips for Managing Joint Discomfort

Making certain lifestyle adjustments can also help minimize joint pain associated with hypothyroidism:

  • Get regular moderate exercise to lubricate joints and strengthen muscles.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight to avoid extra pressure on joints.
  • Use proper posture and body mechanics to reduce joint strain.
  • Wear comfortable shoes with cushioned insoles.
  • Get enough sleep and manage stress levels.
  • Avoid activities that aggravate joint pain.
  • Consume an anti-inflammatory diet with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

When to See a Doctor

While the above remedies may provide relief for mild joint discomfort related to hypothyroidism, it’s important to consult a doctor if pain becomes severe or persistent. Seek medical advice for:

  • Joint pain that does not improve with over-the-counter medication and home treatments.
  • Swelling or redness in the joints.
  • Pain that interferes with your daily activities and sleep.
  • Multiple joint pain that comes on suddenly.

A doctor can properly evaluate your symptoms, adjust your thyroid medication if needed, and rule out other potential causes of joint pain like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. They may recommend prescription anti-inflammatory medication, pain relievers, physical therapy, or joint injections for more severe cases.

The Bottom Line

Joint achiness is a common complaint for those with hypothyroidism due to the effects of low thyroid hormones on joint tissues. Providing thyroid medication under medical supervision is the key to resolving the root hormonal imbalance. Complementary remedies like heat/cold therapy, exercise, massage, acupuncture, and NSAIDs can also ease joint discomfort. Making lifestyle changes to reduce joint strain is additionally helpful. But if joint pain becomes severe or persistent, be sure to consult a doctor to explore further treatment options.