Joint pain and muscle pain are common symptoms when it comes to Hashimoto’s. These symptoms can cause pain, poor muscle recovery after working out, and can interfere with your ability to sleep great!
But where do they come from? And what can you do about it?
Great questions! I’m so glad you asked 🤗
Both of these annoying symptoms come from 2 different mechanisms: 1) food, 2) food and low T4 (maybe). I say maybe because the research is still torn on this. But we’ll dig into each of these a bit deeper in this blog.
After reading this blog, you’ll feel relieved to know that the joint and muscle pain isn’t in your head. They’re very real symptoms you’re struggling with. You’ll also feel hopeful that you learned a few things that you can do right now to help relieve this pain, which will allow you to move more freely and sleep better at night.
A Note About Joint Pain
Let’s dissect joint pain first. At the start of this blog, I mentioned that foods are a big player in joint pain. This is accurate and I’m not backtracking. But I want to add a note here first before I get into the nitty gritty.
You can have joint pain from arthritis or an injury. And that joint pain can be made worse by foods. I’ll share a personal anecdote with you. I have degeneration in my right hip, neck, and low back. They hurt often…all the time really. But the level of pain changes. When I consume a quality diet with low inflammatory foods, my pain is greatly decreased. But when I consume a lot of inflammatory foods, like I do when I’m on vacation (or claim I’m too busy), my joint pain becomes unbearable and I have to take medication to help me out.
So…joint pain can happen for other reasons than food BUT inflammatory foods can make that pain so much worse. Okay…on to how inflammatory foods affect this process.
Inflammatory Foods and Joint Pain
I’ve written about how inflammation can cause joint pain in the past but I don’t think I went as deep as I could have. Nor, did I talk about how this helps you with Hashimoto’s.
When you consume foods your body doesn’t like, your immune system becomes activated. Every time the immune system is activated, the inflammatory system comes with it. And what happens when the inflammatory system is on alert? Cortisol, the stress hormone is high, because cortisol acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. But like all things, too much of a good thing can be bad…especially with cortisol.
But we’re not here to talk about cortisol today. We’re focusing on the immune system and inflammation.
Let’s say your body doesn’t like dairy. And you know this because you get bloated or maybe have some diarrhea. But you consume it anyway because it’s tasty! But each time you have some dairy, your immune system goes on the defense and attacks that dairy. And, the inflammatory system comes right after it to help repair any damage from the attack.
Think of this like a cut on your skin. The immune system is activated due to the breach of your skin barrier. The skin becomes swollen and looks a little gnarly. The inflammatory system comes to the site as well to help assist the immune system in healing the cut. But not all parts of the immune system are good. We have pro-inflammatory cytokines that create more inflammation in the body.
Each time you consume a food your body doesn’t like; the immune system is activated as is the inflammatory system. It’s like ripping the scab off that cut on your skin over and over again. It takes forever to heal, continues to swell, and leaves a scar.
Inflammatory foods create more joint pain. Or, they make existing joint pain worse. For joints, it’s like poking the joints that are already inflamed to aggravate them more.
How to Reduce Joint Pain
How can you reduce the joint pain? Remove those inflammatory foods!
If you’re not sure where to start, the first thing that you can do is to tune into your body. Keep tabs on what you’re eating and how you feel after you eat those foods. For this exercise, you could keep tabs on your joint pain.
- Write down what you eat
- Check-in with your joint pain every 30-minutes until your next meal
- Make any notes about increases in pain
After a while, you’ll notice some patterns with foods. And you can work to remove those foods for a period of time.
Another option is to look at the top 5 most inflammatory foods. They are:
- Eggs (specifically egg whites)
Pick one and work to remove it from your diet. Then, when you’ve mastered that, move on to another. One food may not make a big difference because most people have more than one food their body doesn’t like.
But one is a great place to start. It’s important to note that when you remove that food, you don’t add in replacements that could be just as inflammatory. For instance, replacing flour tortillas with corn tortillas. Or skipping the regular cupcakes for gluten-free cupcakes.
Okay…let’s talk about muscle pain.
Muscle Pain and Hashimoto’s
Not everyone with Hashimoto’s experiences muscle pain but many do. For some, it’s outright pain in their muscles. But for many, it’s poor exercise recovery. This is muscle pain but most don’t associate it as muscle pain. Some may just feel weakness in their muscles as well.
Researchers aren’t 100% sure why this happens but they have a few theories.
The first is that low free T4 can cause this. They came to this conclusion because their study participants that experienced muscle pain had low free T4. And when treated with levothyroxine, their muscle pain or weakness was reduced due to an increase in T4. Does this mean that low free T4 causes muscle weakness and pain? No. It just shows there may be a correlation between the two. I’ve had clients that didn’t feel any changes in their muscles after their free T4 normalized. But, it’s definitely something to consider.
The other reason that muscle pain and weakness occurs is due to inflammation from foods you consume. This mechanism is very similar to joint pain and inflammatory foods. Remember, that pro-inflammatory cytokines can create pain in the body.
In this study, researchers have found that individuals with non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) typically complain of muscle pain. Actually, many of their symptoms are the same symptoms of Hashimoto’s because they both affect the immune system. And, because the incidence of Hashimoto’s and Celiac Disease together is high.
Aside from medications and removing inflammatory foods, both important things you should be doing, you should move!
Movement and Muscle Pain
When muscles and joints hurt, it’s easy to not move as much. But it’s important to keep moving! Lack of movement actually makes muscles and joints stiffer. This creates more pain.
Aside from removing inflammatory foods, adding in some movement to your life would be greatly beneficial to your joints, muscles, and overall health. Here are some great ways that you can move more:
- Gentle yoga capped at 20-minutes 2-3x per week
- Walking outside in nature for 30-minutes 2-3x per week
- Weight bearing exercises including upper and lower body 2x per week
I know it’s tough to move when in pain, but it will help the pain overall!
Don’t move too much! I know I know. I said move but now I’m telling you to not move too much. This is more for those of you that LOVE exercise.
Overdoing it can make things worse. Because poor exercise recovery comes with Hashimoto’s…fun, right? Doing aggressive exercises like:
- Long-distance running
- High intensity interval training
- Weight bearing exercises with very heavy weights
And others can create muscle pain or exhaustion during the days and weeks following these types of exercises. Listen to your body and don’t push it. If you do an exercise routine and struggle in the days after, take it down a notch for the next exercise routine.
But I can’t emphasize enough to listen to your body! This goes with food as well! Tuning in will help you find which foods are creating more joint and muscle pain for you!
And there you have it! The mystery unlocked of why you’re struggling with joint and/or muscle pain with Hashimoto’s. You may not be struggling with both and that’s a great thing! But if you are, pick the one that you think is a bigger issue for you and work on that one first.
Then come back and work on the second one.
If you’re looking for a little more direction when it comes to the joint pain and inflammatory foods, check out my low-cost gluten-free course. You may already be gluten-free, and that’s great! But this course teaches you:
- What symptoms to look out for in your body to know if you’re eating inflammatory foods (hint: it’s more than just joint pain)
- Why inflammatory foods affect your body with symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, skin problems, digestive issues, etc.
- How to track your foods and symptoms
- When to reintroduce foods and how to know when you’re ready
Gluten can create more joint pain in those with Hashimoto’s even if you don’t have Celiac Disease.
Click the button below to read more about it! The only thing you’ve got to lose is all those annoying symptoms.
Losurdo, G., Principi, M., Iannone, A., Amoruso, A., Ierardi, E., Di Leo, A., & Barone, M. (2018). Extra-intestinal manifestations of non-celiac gluten sensitivity: An expanding paradigm. World journal of gastroenterology, 24(14), 1521–1530. https://doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v24.i14.1521
Villar, J., Finol, H. J., Torres, S. H., & Roschman-González, A. (2015). Myopathy in patients with Hashimoto’s disease. Investigacion clinica, 56(1), 33–46. http://ve.scielo.org/pdf/ic/v56n1/art05.pdf
Zhang, J. M., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, inflammation, and pain. International anesthesiology clinics, 45(2), 27–37. https://doi.org/10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e