A reader named Jules contacted me a few months ago with chronic pain from fibromyalgia so bad she was struggling to walk and to take care of her young son. Her symptoms included extreme swelling, fatigue, hair loss, pressure in her throat, and loss of the outer-third of her eyebrows. Anyone who has read my article 300+ Hypothyroidism Symptoms…Yes REALLY would consider hypothyroidism as a possible cause, and yet doctor after doctor insisted her thyroid was fine with a normal TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). They insisted her symptoms especially her pain from fibromyalgia could not possibly be thyroid related. Turns out Jules had several large thyroid tumors pressing up against her throat.
Thyroid Hormone & Chronic Pain
I read an excellent book by Dr. Mark Starr called Hypothyroidism Type 2: The Epidemic. Dr. Starr is a Diplomate of the American Board of Pain Medicine and is licensed by the Arizona State Board of Homeopathic and Integrated Medicine Examiners. He has studied with President Kennedy’s famous pain specialist Hans Kraus, M.D., and Lawrence S. Sonkin, M.D., renowned endocrinologist at the New York Hospital – Cornell Medical Center.
In 1998, Dr. Starr decided to review his chronic pain patients’ medical histories, symptoms, and physical findings after realizing the pervasiveness of hypothyroidism. Random chart reviews were performed on 162 adult patients. I was amazed to read the following in Dr. Starr’s book on pages 24-25.
Most chronic pain is just one symptom of a much greater problem, which accounts for the majority of patients’ illnesses. The problem is hypothyroidism.
On their initial examination, many of my patients’ complaints and physical findings (consistent with hypothyroidism) would be listed in their patient summary. A typical list for one of my chronic pain patients would read:
Patient has a history of dry skin, fatigue, menorrhagia (heavy periods), chronic sinusitis, TMJ with persistent teeth clenching, insomnia, chronic pain, as well as a positive family history for hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, allergies and cancer.
Regarding the physical exam: “The patient has moderate myxedema (swelling) over the proximal upper and lower extremities with vey dry skin that is tender to the pinch. Her hands and feet are cool and clammy to the touch, nails yellowed and ridged, dry hair, lateral thinning of the eyebrows, delayed ankle reflexes, as well as diffuse tender points and trigger points throughout her muscles.”
This patient already had a hysterectomy, gallbladder surgery, and two C-sections. Her basal body temperature was later found to be about 97.0 degrees Fahrenheit. A list of symptoms such as these was the rule rather than the exception among my chronic pain patients.
Every single one of these symptoms is listed in my article 300+ Hypothyroidism Symptoms…Yes REALLY. Thyroid hormone is needed by every cell of the body for proper functioning, therefore low thyroid can affect hundreds of bodily functions.
Natural Desiccated Thyroid
Dr. Mark Starr discovered that natural desiccated thyroid was an effective treatment for his patient’s chronic pain. Even more surprising, natural desiccated thyroid dramatically improved symptoms more than Synthroid (T4). Why is this so important?
Levothyroxine is a thyroid hormone replacement drug that contains the synthetic form of one thyroid hormone, T4. Levothyroxine is the drug of choice by mainstream doctors for hypothyroidism and Synthroid is the most commonly prescribed brand name.
A list of the 25 most prescribed drugs in 2011 was released in a report by the IMS Institute of Healthcare informatics. Levothyroxine was listed the SECOND MOST-PRESCRIBED DRUG in the U.S., with 104.7 million prescriptions in 2011.
I’ve received countless messages from readers around the world suffering from symptoms of hypothyroidism including pain while on T4-only drugs like Synthroid. I’ve heard so many stories of doctors refusing to try the other thyroid medication options including natural desiccated thyroid even though their patients are suffering debilitating symptoms on their current T4-only medication.
Is it really any wonder then why so many thyroid sufferers are suffering from chronic pain?
Thyroid Disease & Fibromyalgia
Dr. Joseph Mercola interviewed thyroid pioneer Dr. John Lowe on the connection between thyroid disease and fibromyalgia. Dr. Mercola’s article The Simple Fibromyalgia Treatment that’s Nearly Always Overlooked… is a must-read. He wrote:
Interestingly, inadequate thyroid hormone regulation may be one of the primary underlying factors in many patients with fibromyalgia.
Dr. Lowe explains:
“I had prior training as a research psychologist and was able to pull forth that training and enlist physicians on the research team. It was a loose net research team until it eventually became a non-profit organization called the Fibromyalgia Research Foundation.
Seven or eight years ago, I gave a presentation at the Fibromyalgia Coalition International based in Kansas City… I got there late and heard none of the other presentations.
When I gave my presentation, people began saying, “Dr. Lowe, you’ve used the word “integrative metabolic therapies” for getting patients free from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. It just so happens, every single one of the — at that point, considered alternative doctors — have said exactly the same things.”
Through their personal, clinical experiences they had come to the same conclusions we had. If they used metabolic integrative therapies, nutritional deficiencies, anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, getting off medications that impede metabolism, and possibly treating cortisol deficiency, possibly balancing sex hormones, and treating the patients with effective thyroid hormone therapy… They got the patients well.
I said the same thing they had said, but my experience was based on rigorous scientific testing. Their experience was based on intuition and the wisdom that comes from listening to patients and working with them.”
When I think of all the people at Hypothyroid Mom writing to me about chronic pain, I feel so upset. There are so many people with thyroid disease needlessly suffering. So few people know the connection.