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What is the Connection Between the Thyroid and Fibromyalgia?

By Synthia L. Rose
Updated Feb 08, 2024
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The connection between thyroid and fibromyalgia is that disorders of the thyroid often manifest the same symptoms as fibromyalgia. Consequently, the two conditions are often confused, leading to misdiagnosis. Thyroid hypoactivity and fibromyalgia both result in muscle aches, extreme lethargy, and wide fluctuations in mood. Elevated weight and sensitivity to coldness are also symptoms shared by disorders of the thyroid and fibromyalgia.

There is no test to conclusively diagnosis fibromyalgia. This exacerbates the risk of confusing problems of the thyroid with fibromyalgia. Blood tests, however, are effective in pinpointing an underactive thyroid; these tests can help doctors determine, by the process of elimination, to what extent fibromyalgia is the main cause of the ambiguous symptoms. The physical examination of 18 body points that are typically sore in fibromyalgia patients also helps with accurate diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia is the medical condition that causes constant exhaustion and widespread burning pain throughout the body’s musculatory system. Aches in the muscles generally reverberate in the joints of the afflicted person, mimicking the sensation of having arthritis. The upper body is typically affected first, especially the neck. The aches then spread downward, affecting all limbs, palms and feet. Facial muscles can become stiff and painful as well.

The condition is rarely cured permanently and generally returns regularly throughout a person’s lifetime, often activated by weather changes, stress, and other health or fitness problems. Women are more likely to be afflicted with the disorder than men, although studies have not determined why. Delayed diagnosis is standard for many people afflicted with fibromyalgia, as doctors spend months or years testing for a dozen other similar causes such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, which could be causing the symptoms.

The ability to manage problems of the thyroid and fibromyalgia vary widely. While iodine treatments, hormone therapy, and radiation can usually help regulate thyroid function, effective fibromyalgia treatments remain elusive, according to many studies. Relaxation techniques and physical therapy such as massage, yoga, posture training, and aerobics are among the common fibromyalgia treatments. Cortisone is occasionally used to reduce the swelling of inflamed muscles; however, many doctors dismiss the effectiveness of cortisone for fibromyalgia. Pain medications are often prescribed to dull some of the aches for patients, but generally cannot end all pain; the level of pain varies from individual to individual, depending on activity levels and fitness condition.

Despite similarities between disorders of the thyroid and fibromyalgia, one key difference is that hypothyroidism is routinely accepted as a legitimate medical condition, while fibromyalgia is sometimes dismissed as a psychosomatic condition since no medical test can definitively diagnosis fibromyalgia. This exacerbates pain for many patients who become more depressed after years of tests fail to deliver a conclusive diagnosis. While fibromyalgia is not lethal, it can affect quality of life.

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Discussion Comments
By anon337795 — On Jun 08, 2013

Everything said in the article is spot on! Some days it overwhelms me that most people don't believe I have a problem, and it's frustrating.

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