Common Physical Complications for Active Thyroid Patients
Average reading time: 4 minutes
Muscle aches and pains are a part of life, and when you’re living with a thyroid condition it can feel like you struggle with pain daily—even hourly. Something as simple as stepping off a curb wrong, picking up your child, or just sitting at your desk for a few hours can leave you feeling like something is out of whack.
Certain physical aches are more common when a thyroid condition is present, so it’s important to treat both the biomechanical issue and make sure your thyroid is in check. Many of these physical ailments are common and can be fixed through basic functional movement exercises that you can do at home.
Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
One day you reach up to comb your hair and have trouble lifting your arm overhead. It feels stiff and achy, but even more concerning: Your arm feels stuck to your ribs. It hurts to lay on your side, making it difficult to find a comfortable sleep position. What’s weird is you don’t remember injuring yourself. These are symptoms of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome, and it can go hand in hand with an underactive thyroid.
Women are most at risk for Frozen Shoulder syndrome (70% of cases are women).
The risk is higher if the woman:
- Is over the age of 40
- Had a previous surgery immobilizing the shoulder, such as breast surgery
- Has a history of diabetes and thyroid disorders
- Has been through hormonal changes, such as perimenopause and menopause
- Had a previous shoulder injury
- Has cervical disc disease
If this sounds familiar, know that the road to “unsticking” a frozen shoulder can be up to a year if left untreated. Jump-start the healing process with a good rehabilitation and movement program to shorten the time it takes to recover.
Here are the first three moves to help bring relief to a frozen shoulder:
- Codman Arm Circles: Take a lunge stance and lean slightly forward. Let your arm hang down towards the ground and make small circles with your arm in the clockwise and counter clockwise direction. Once this feels comfortable unweighted, grab a 5-pound weight or a gallon milk jug and continue with the clockwise and counterclockwise circles. Do 15 circles in each direction. Start with small circles, gradually making them bigger.
- Quadruped Rocking: On hands and knees, sit your hips back to your heels. Make sure your hands are under your shoulders, the middle fingers are parallel to one another, and root the index knuckle down to the floor. As you rock your hips back, push the floor away with your hands and keep a long spine. This is great for shoulder stability and retraining the arm to move upward with a locked in core.
- Dead Bug: Lay on your back with your knees a little higher than 90 degrees, and knees separated hip width. Slowly alternate tapping one foot to the ground and then the other. Make sure to keep a neutral spine in the lower back and a breath filled into the belly. Why work the core?, you ask. The muscles that stabilize the shoulder share fascial connections with the muscles of your core. If you only work the shoulder and not the core, you’re missing a major component to making a full recovery.
UP NEXT: HOW THYROID PATIENTS CAN GET STRONG AND AVOID INJURY
Knee Pain, Muscle Weakness,and Tendonitis
Have you experienced mild knee pain when walking up stairs but even more significant discomfort going down stairs? The latter is actually more demanding on the quadricep muscles. Many women I meet with Hashimoto’s have such severe knee pain, even slight pressure with kneeling can cause the joint to swell.
Hypothyroid myopathy or muscle weakness affects about 79% of people with hypothyroidism. Muscles are a major target for thyroid receptors to receive the signalling of thyroid hormones and when the thyroid is underactive, type 2 muscle fibers will atrophy, making it harder to maintain our muscle mass. One major part of the body where women feel the effects of muscle atrophy and weakness as well as tendonitis are the muscles surrounding the knees.
Knee tendonitis is diagnosed as discomfort increased with repetitive movements, tenderness when you touch where the tendon attaches to the bone, and mild swelling, especially in the back of the knee. The best way to combat this is through exercise. Many doctors recommend walking but I love strength training to help stabilize the knee joint.
Here are my two favorite strength moves to rehab the knees. Pay close attention to the form.
Many women describe feeling double-jointed and having loose sloppy joints. They often get corrected in yoga class to put a little bend in their elbows in down dog, or to stand with a bend in the knees in mountain pose, but are also celebrated for being so flexible when they forward fold.
Hypermobile joints can leave you feeling unstable in your body, and can even lead to repeated sprains and strains with no big traumatic event. This symptom is often overlooked and rarely talked about when it comes to living with an autoimmune condition. In fact, the research hasn’t been done on this topic yet, but in my clinical practice helping thousands of women each year with Hashimotos, this is a consistent finding.
This tissue laxity and hypermobility can be picked up by your provider with a Beighton Hypermobility Score. There are five moves checking for knee extension, elbow extension, pinky and thumb flexibility, and the ability to bend forward and place your hands flat on the floor. If you score more than a 9, you may have loose connective tissue and joint hypermobility.
Remember, we are not our pain and we are not our diagnosis. We are our determination and resilience to persevere through the tough moments which can often involve physical pain and discomfort. Know there is a light in self care and creating strength in your body.