Can Hypothyrodism Cause Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

Examining the Link Between Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia

Senior African American man rubbing his shoulder
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Fibromyalgia is a condition typically characterized by musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. The pain can be severe and affect a number of muscles, tendons, ligaments and soft tissues.

If you are hypothyroid and start to develop muscle or joint achiness, you may be concerned that you've developed fibromyalgia, or in some cases even rheumatoid arthritis. Many people with thyroid disease or so-called "normal" TSH levels on thyroid hormone replacement find that over time they begin to develop more and more joint and muscle pains and arthritis-like symptoms.

Your physician may even diagnosis you as having fibromyalgia "in addition to" hypothyroidism or test to see if you have rheumatoid arthritis.

What you need to know is that what is happening may actually be a symptom of undertreated hypothyroidism. Some experts theorize that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue are in many cases just a package of symptoms of an underlying underactive thyroid problem.

For many people, fibromyalgia may be a symptom of an underlying thyroid problem, not necessarily a disease unto itself. A typical patient's fibromyalgia may actually be evidence of too little thyroid hormone regulation of certain tissues.

The Research Linking Hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia

The proposition of a causal link between hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia is nothing new. A leading investigator examining this relationship is Dr. John Lowe who published informative work on the subject in the 1990s.

Clinically, the symptoms of hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia and depression exhibit much overlap. Several studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia have problems producing and using thyroid hormone. Furthermore, research also suggests that people with fibromyalgia have impaired response to thyroid-releasing hormone.

Additionally, some research suggests that people with fibromyalgia are more likely to be resistant to thyroid hormone.

Population studies have shown that people with musculoskeletal complaints have higher numbers of thyroid autoantibodies. These findings dovetail nicely with observations that people with thyroid problems also have Sjorgen's syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis. All of these conditions have substantial musculoskeletal components.

Final Thoughts on Fibromyalgia and Hypothyroidism

Ultimately please keep in mind that much of the information presented in this article is hypothetical. We don't know for sure whether people with thyroid problems who develop fibromyalgia symptoms don't in fact have fibromyalgia, too. Moreover, it's possible that thyroid disease may make it more likely that a person will develop fibromyalgia.

The information in this article brings up a generally interesting association that could prove beneficial to those with hypothyroidism and musculoskeletal complaints similar to fibromyalgia.

Specifically, thyroid maintenance and therapy could help relieve musculoskeletal complaints without need for specific fibromyalgia treatment.

On a final note, the idea that hypothyroidism and fibromyalgia may be linked relates to a greater theme that we're seeing medicine that ties apparently disparate autoimmune diseases together. Thus, fibromyalgia may have deep autoimmune underpinnings.

Selected Sources

Article titled "Thyroid autoimmunity may represent a predisposition for the development of fibromyalgia?" by L Bazzichi and co-authors published in Rheumatology International in 2012.

Article titled "The frequency of thyroid antibodies in fibromyalgia patients and their relationship with symptoms" by ON Pamuk and N Cakir published in Clinical Rheumatology in 2007.

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