Dr. David Clark, DC -Center for Low Thyroid Solutions Durham, NC- explains the confusing connection betwen fibromyalgia and low thyroid, and exposes the lazy tactics some doctors use when working with fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism.
Let's talk about the connection between fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism. If you don't know what fibromyalgia is let me first tell you that I think it’s a garbage can diagnosis.
I'm not saying Fibromyalgia is not real... but I am saying the diagnosis is lame.
I've done a lot of research on this topic and I discovered a dirty little secret about the way millions of women were diagnosed with Fibromyalgia....
The criteria that were originally established for fibromyalgia over 15 years ago were based on a doctor having actual physical contact with the patient (makes sense, right?) Recent published research did a retrospective review of thousands of women diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. The reseachers found that doctors who had been busy diagnosing women with Fibromyalgia were not correctly following the established diagnostic critera.
So what were these doctors doing?
An alarming number of doctors had never physically examined the women they diagnosed with fibromyaglia.
This is ridiculous, considering that muscle tenderness was one of the criteria. That means the doctors should have put their hands on these patients to determine if the patients actually had any tender points.
In reality, in a doctor's office, Fibromyalgia means you have chronic unexplained pain. (among other things).
Here's the funny thing --using the established criteria, out of the next 50 people that walk by my office, I could diagnose 25 of them with fibromyalgia. That's why Fibromyalgia is not much of diagnosis.
Why am I talking about Fibromyalgia and Low Thyroid?
Every month, I'm seeing more women coming into my office that are already diagnosed with fibromyalgia-- and they also have diagnosed hypothyroidism (low thyroid) or symptoms of low thyroid.
Now what is the connection between the two? Their symptoms overlap. On the one hand let’s take hypothyroid. What are your common hypothyroid symptoms?
- weight gain
- increased sensitivity to pain
- Feel cold in hands, feet or all over
- Widespread muscle aches and pain
- Hair loss
- Sleep disturbances
And the common symptoms of Fibromyalgia are...
- Widespread, chronic Muscle pain
- Low endurance
- Poor exercise intolerance
- Sleep disturbance -- non-restful or non-restorative sleep
See the overlap? (Actually, there are a couple of other conditions that can overlap in here as well. A thorough doctor would rule those out).
Here's the problem...
There's a popular chain of fibromyalgia and fatigue clinics that--basically--treat every women diagnosed with fibromyalgia as ALSO being hypothyroid. And they give thyroid hormones to almost everyone who walks through the door. (In fact, they have a nifty handout titled "Are All Fibromyalgia Patients Low Thyroid?" that lays out their case for doing this).
Giving thyroid hormones to all women diagnosed with Fibromyalgia is a mistake.
Granted, yes, some of the people that have fibromyalgia symptoms are indeed hypothyroid. Hypothroidism is very common.
But, the number one cause of low thyroid in America is Hashimoto's, an autoimmune condition... and giving thyroid hormones is going to help a little bit, but it not's going to do squat for the autoimmune attack.
Giving thyroid hormones to every woman who has Fibromyalgia symptoms is just like giving them an energy drink....
She'll feel good for awhile...maybe she'll think she's finally found the 'right' thing...
But her pain will return, because either
A. She's not hypothyroid at all.
B. She actually IS hypothyroid, and it's caused by Hashimoto's (autoimmune destruction of the thyroid gland), but the thyroid hormones just don't help. See These Posts.
I don't like this approach because it's a cookie cutter way of getting a lot of people to come to a fibromyalgia and fatigue clinic....then charge them a bunch of money....then give them all hormones and see how the cookie crumbles. Some will get better, many won't.
Probably 25 or 20 percent of those women are going to feel better when you give them some thyroid hormones because they're on hypothyroid side of the coin.
In my opinion, these doctors are not digging deep enough. It takes almost no extra effort on the doctor's part to figure out what's going on. But it does take having the correct training to know what to look for.
So the connection between fibromyalgia and hypothyroid is that the symptoms overlap. But the "diagnosis" of fibromyalgia isn't helpful in the first place. At least with hypothyroid there are some lab tests you can use as evidence.
Does that make sense?
A disturbing number of women with fibromyalgia symptoms actually have some form of an autoimmune attack on one or more of their tissues or organs.
Many people with fibromyalgia actually have poor firing brains in the frontal lobe and the parietal lobe.
I can guarantee you that any mainstream medical doctor that diagnoses you with fibromyalgia is not investigating whether you've got autoimmunity (sure, they may run ANA antibodies).
They're not investigating to see if you've got weakness in your frontal lobe of your brain.
They're just looking at a checklist, and eventually they decide,
"She's had this pain for five years. She's seen a neurologist, orthopedist, physical therapist..and no one really knows what's causing her pain.... So, she's got fibromyalgia."
Well that doesn’t help us at all, does it?
If you've been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, or you think you have fibromyalgia...I don't want you to lose hope.
Don't settle for "Fibromyalgia." Don't settle for "Hypothyroid."
You need to find....
....A doctor that understands that hypothyroidism and Fibromyalgia can overlap, but you don't automatically need hormones.
....A doctor that understands that "Fibromyalgia" is just a label and knows how to discover why you have these symptoms
....A doctor that understands how to check for Hashimoto's, and knows what to do if you have it.
...A doctor who's willing to take the necessary time and leave no stone unturned.
© 2011 Dr. David Clark. All Rights Reserved.
Dr. David Clark, DC
Diplomate College of Clinical Nutrition
Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist
Vestibular Rehab Specialist