One of the lesser known symptoms of thyroid disorders is muscle spasms. Since muscle spasms can be brought on by a variety of possible causes, it is not always obvious that a thyroid disorder may be involved. Muscle spasms must be considered along with other symptoms which indicate that the thyroid gland is not working properly. Knowledge of the kind of muscle pain and spasms related to this disorder can help individuals decide when to seek medical consultation.
The Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is located at the front of the neck and plays a critical role in the balance and overall health of the human body. This gland works in concert with the pituitary gland and hypothalamus to provide the correct level of thyroid hormones to keep the body thriving. These hormones are responsible for heart health, circulatory processes, metabolism, cholesterol levels and psychological balance. If the thyroid gland is not generating the correct level of hormones, various symptoms begin to appear, such as muscle pain and spasms, weight gain, skin changes and depression.
When a muscle involuntarily contracts and fails to relax, a muscle spasm occurs. Any muscle in the body can experience a spasm. Muscle spasms are also referred to as muscle cramps, or "charlie horses" when they occur in the legs. They differ from a muscle twitch in that a twitch involves only a small muscle area and is often unnoticeable. When a nerve which is connected to a muscle is irritated, it causes the muscle to spasm.
Hypothyroidism indicates that the thyroid gland is not producing enough thyroid hormones. Muscle aching and spasms are symptoms of this condition. Other symptoms include weight gain, constipation, depression, change of menstrual cycles in women and fatigue. The thyroid hormones help to keep heart vessels flexible and healthy and untreated hypothyroidism can lead to an increase in blood pressure, resulting in hypertension.
Hashimoto's disease is also referred to as chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis. It is brought on when the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This disease can progress slowly and is the number one cause of hypothyroidism. Muscular symptoms include spasms, stiffness and tenderness, and tend to be felt mostly in the hips and shoulders. Leg muscles often feel weak and joints swell and stiffen.
Muscle spasms can be brought on by many other causes other than thyroid disorders, including dehydration, low calcium or magnesium levels, kidney failure, as well as general muscle fatigue. Heavy exercise contributes to muscle spasms when the muscle is overworked. Strained or ruptured muscles also often spasm. Musculoskeletal disorders such as sciatica or a herniated disk frequently generate muscle spasms.