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The Thyroid/Fibromyalgia Connection

Shared Causes, Shared Treatments?

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Updated May 16, 2014

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrom

Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

Updated May 16, 2014
by Mary J. Shomon

A significant percentage of the estimated 20 million people with hypothyroidism end up also being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, an important connection discussed in my new book Living Well With Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia. Both conditions share symptoms, including fatigue, exhaustion, depression, brain fog, and varying degrees of muscle and joint pain. Some experts believe that like most cases of hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia is also autoimmune in nature. Others believe that fibromyalgia may be one manifestation of an underactive metabolism – hypometabolism – and is therefore one variation on thyroid dysfunction.

Fibromyalgia, also known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), fibromyositis, fibrositis, and myofibrositis, is characterized by widespread joint and muscle pain and tenderness, fatigue, and exhaustion after sleep and after effort.

Fibromyalgia affects as many as 8 million people in the U.S., occurring mainly in women of childbearing age. Symptoms usually arise between the ages of 20-55 years, but the condition also may be diagnosed in childhood. Among the entire population, it's estimated that as many as 3-6% of the general population, including children, meet the criteria for diagnosis of fibromyalgia. This would make fibromyalgia over twice as common as rheumatoid arthritis. In general, fibromyalgia is strikes women seven times more often than men, according to a 1998 National Institutes of Health report.

Fibromyalgia Symptoms

Symptoms of fibromyalgia typically include:

  • Feeling of pain, burning, aching, and soreness in the body
  • Headaches, tenderness of the scalp, pain in the back of the skull
  • Pain in the neck, shoulder, shoulder blades and elbows
  • Pain in hips, top of buttocks, outside the lower hip, below buttocks, and the pelvis
  • Pain in the knees and kneecap area
  • Fatigue, unrefreshing sleep, waking up tired, morning stiffness
  • Insomnia, frequent waking, difficulty falling asleep, or falling asleep immediately
  • Raynaud's phenomenon (where your hands feel cold, numb, or turn blue, when exposed to temperature changes)
  • Irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea and constipation, bloating, cramping
  • Balance problems
  • Neurally mediated hypotension -- when you stand up, your blood pressure drops, which can make you feel faint, dizzy, nauseous, your heart rate drops, and you can even pass out
  • Balance problems
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sense of tissues feeling swollen
  • Numbness, tingling and feeling of cold in the hands and feet
  • Chest pain, palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful periods
  • Anxiety, depression and "fibrofog" -- the term used to describe the confusion and forgetfulness, inability to concentrate and difficulty recalling simple words and numbers, and transposing words and numbers
  • Frequent urination
  • Muscle twitching
  • Dry mouth
Diagnosis

A formal diagnosis is confirmed using the official American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia:

____ Widespread pain for at least 3 months. Pain should be on both the left side of the body and the right side, and pain both above and below the waist. Cervical spine, anterior chest, thoracic spine or low back pain must also be present.

Plus, pain in at least 11 of 18 specific tender point sites, which include:

____ The area where the neck muscles attach to the base of the skull, left and right sides (Occiput)
____ Midway between neck and shoulder, left and right sides (Trapezius)
____ Muscles over left and right upper inner shoulder blade, left and right sides (Supraspinatus)
____ 2 centimeters below side bone at elbow of left and right arms (Lateral epicondyle)
____ Left and right upper outer buttocks (Gluteal)
____ Left and right hip bones (Greater trochanter)
____ Just above left and right knees on inside
____ Lower neck in front, left and right sides (Low cervical)
____ Edge of upper breast bone, left and right sides (Second rib)

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