March 9, 2022

The Thyroid Story and How It Affects Your Knees

Written by: Omnia Tantawi, MSc

How the Story Starts

2016, in the Netherlands, ten scientists conducted experimental research to determine the effect of thyroid function on the way we walk; they called it The Rotterdam Study.1

But before we get into the specifics of our topic for today, here’s a quick recap on the thyroid gland. It’s a gland located inside your neck, responsible for secreting two hormones: thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones play a crucial role in many of our bodily functions, but it’s most famous for metabolism, growth, and development of the human body.2

Back to the Rotterdam experiment now, in this study, they recruited 2645 human participants and studied their thyroid function in an effort to determine their association to movement and joints. What they found out is about to blow your mind away.

How can their findings possibly interest you? One might wonder. Well, my friend, it could explain your knee pain and unbalanced movement, and if we know the reason, we can surely come up with a cure.

 

The Findings of the Rotterdam Experiment

After gathering all the information and performing the data analysis, they found out that the effect of the thyroid gland is so up to the mark that if it secretes too little or too much of its hormones, it will hurt our bodies. 

Low and high thyroid function alters the density of bone and can contribute to subsequent fragility in knee bones, muscle mass, ultimately leading to fractures.1

What these ten experts came up with paved the way for medicine to step in, look at it from a different perspective and start treating patients complaining of knee pain with a unique approach.

 

Other Studies Linking Knee Pain and Thyroid Function

Following the results of the Rotterdam study, scientists quickly started looking into the relationship between thyroid dysfunction and mobility issues to confirm what others hypothesized.

One such study conducted in 2020 and was published in the Journal of International Medical Research aimed to determine whether muscle abnormalities on ultrasound had a connection with the function of the thyroid.

They studied 109 patients with different thyroid diseases and did many tests to account for any associations; the results concurred that of the Rotterdam experiment with an added twist.

Not only did they find frequent associations with hyperthyroid and hypothyroid —too much and too little thyroid gland secretion— but they also discovered that there’s a strong connection with a condition called knee arthralgia which simply means knee joint pain.3

 

What Does This All Mean for You?

Well, given the scientific basis here, this means that sometimes when you complain of painful knees, or you seem to be off-balance during walking or standing up, and you chalk it up to excessive exercising or sitting the wrong way, this can be actually caused by a severe physiological problem that needs medical attention.

 

Symptoms to Look Out For

Since thyroid dysfunction has now been linked to knee problems, here is a list of possible symptoms you might encounter if you have knee pain and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

 

Hyperthyroid-related Knee Pain

You will feel aching, weak muscles, and severe cramping that will finally trigger knee pain.4

 

Hypothyroid-related Knee Pain

You will feel general muscle weakness and fatigue, you may encounter cramping and muscle soreness as in hyperthyroid, but it will not be as commonly felt.4

Nevertheless, it’s always better to consult your healthcare professional and reach out to your medical provider to confirm your diagnosis and give you the correct course of action to follow.

 

Avoiding Knee Pain as Thyroid Complications

If you do get diagnosed with a thyroid problem, here is a list of things to follow to avoid any foreseen consequence of knee pain, cramps, muscle weakness, or/and fractures:4

  • Make walking exercises part of your daily routine, even for a short duration (<30 minutes).
  • Stick to eating healthy diets and incorporate bone-friendly nutrition.
  • Adhere to your prescribed thyroid medications on a regular basis.
  • Follow-up with your doctor to check up on your hormone levels every 3 months.
  • Try to always regulate your sleeping cycle.
  • Mental health is often as important as your physical health, so don’t give up, keep a positive attitude, and don’t let your body control you. 

 

The Gist of It

One advice we can get out of all this is never to ignore any pain, however insignificant or common it seems. Suffering from knee pain may be due to extraneous exercise, bad habits, an old injury, but it also may be due to pathological or genetic conditions that, if ignored, can cause severe complications that you don’t need. 

Stay vigilant about your wellbeing, check up on yourself regularly, and never assume when it comes to your health. 

 

References

  1. Bano A, Chaker L, Darweesh SKL, Korevaar TIM, Mattace-Raso FUS, Dehghan A, et al. Gait patterns associated with thyroid function: The Rotterdam Study. Scientific Reports. 2016 Dec 14;6.
  2. How does the thyroid gland work? - InformedHealth.org - NCBI Bookshelf [Internet]. [cited 2022 Mar 8]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279388/
  3. Kim BY, Kim SS, Park HK, Kim HS. Assessment of the relationship between knee ultrasound and clinical symptoms in patients with thyroid dysfunction. Journal of International Medical Research. 2020 Jan 1;48(1).
  4. Relation between Hypothyroidism and knee pain – Landmark Hospitals [Internet]. [cited 2022 Mar 8]. Available from: https://www.landmarkhospitals.net/blog/relation-between-hypothyroidism-and-knee-pain/

 

 

Article written by Omnia Tantawi, MSc
Omnia is an Assistant Lecturer and Medical Researcher from Egypt. She’s an integral part in many research projects that proved promising in revolutionizing the future of Medicine. As a Research Scholar, she’s particularly interested in Personalized & Molecular Medicine because she believes that this is the prospect of the healthcare industry and can be applied to all medical and pharmaceutical specializations. But at heart she remains a wordsmith, so she currently works as a Medical Writer. This transition was fairly easy with an Academic Medical background, ability to adapt to different audiences and passion for research and creation. She always takes the most complex or mundane topics and turn it into a must-read with an unparalleled style. In her free time, she likes to read books, tunes in Netflix or enjoys the outdoors.

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