Although chiropractic care is a form of alternative medicine that often addresses the treatment of mechanical disorders that affect the body's musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones), the specialty extends treatment to other health conditions people suffer. Whether or not musculoskeletal symptoms are involved that may benefit from spinal manipulation, other forms of chiropractic care can help improve the health of people who suffer from thyroid disease.

Hypothyroidism and Chiropractic Treatment

Individuals with hypothyroidism -- underactive thyroid -- often suffer from headaches, joint pain and swelling, stiffness, muscle weakness in the legs, or other musculoskeletal complaints. Some people do not recover quickly from muscle injuries or suffer back pain related to obesity brought on by the inactivity the fatigue of a slowing metabolism can cause. Symptoms can worsen over time if hypothyroidism goes untreated.

Many patients who seek chiropractic treatment do not realize their symptoms are related to an underlying cause such as hypothyroidism. Hashimoto's disease -- a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid gland -- is a common cause of hypothyroidism in the U.S. However, often it isn't until a patient sees a chiropractor who runs lab tests that the problem is discovered. Like a doctor of medicine (MD), a chiropractor is trained to diagnose thyroid disease by performing a physical examination; considering the patient's medical history; and ordering diagnostic tests.

Treating and managing hypothyroidism includes prescribing thyroid hormone replacement, for which the chiropractor refers the patient to his or her primary care physician. When the thyroid gland doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, doctors prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone to restore hormone levels. Chiropractic care for thyroid dysfunction often includes providing nutritional and lifestyle counseling.

Chiropractors help by recommending dietary changes that address issues such as vitamin D deficiency, gluten sensitivity, and fluctuating blood sugar levels which can accompany hypothyroidism. For example, because some supplements and foods affect the body's ability to absorb thyroid medication, a chiropractor may advise against eating a high-fiber diet and taking calcium or iron supplements.

Hyperthyroidism and Chiropractic Treatment

While not as common as hypothyroidism, chiropractors can contribute to the treatment and management of hyperthyroidism -- overactive thyroid -- as patients often complain of symptoms such as migraines, muscle spasms, carpal tunnel syndrome, and vertigo. Because the thyroid gland is producing too much of the thyroid hormone thyroxine, a person's primary care physician may focus treatment on slowing the production of thyroid hormones by prescribing anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine. The chiropractor's role includes offering the patient dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle counseling to help improve his or her quality of life.

Dietary and nutritional consulting often include the chiropractor recommending a gluten-free diet and dietary supplements. For instance, individuals with celiac disease -- an immune reaction that eating gluten triggers in the small intestine -- are at increased risk of developing other autoimmune disorders, including those that affect the thyroid gland. Gluten is a protein in wheat, barley, and rye that causes an immune reaction which can eventually lead to damage in the digestive system that prevents proper absorption of nutrients.

Since weight loss can be another symptom of hyperthyroidism, individuals often need to supplement their diets to get extra calories and protein. However, once hyperthyroidism is controlled, the treatment may contribute to weight gain. In that case, a chiropractor offers advice on getting the proper nutrition without consuming excess calories. It's also important for a patient to get enough calcium and vitamin D in his or her diet as hyperthyroidism can increase the risk of osteoporosis by thinning the bones.

Chiropractors also recommend lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise and practicing relaxation techniques. Besides improving a person's muscle tone, exercise helps increase energy, reduce appetite, and maintain bone density. Teaching patients relaxation techniques helps them stay positive, particularly since stress is a risk factor for Grave's disease -- a common cause of hyperthyroidism.

Some chiropractors use massage therapy to decrease production of the stress hormone cortisol and increase secretion of dopamine and serotonin – the body's "feel-good" hormones. Since changing the balance of hormones that affect people's energy levels can contribute to better overall health, chiropractic massage may help manage the symptoms of fatigue, low energy, and depression often associated with thyroid dysfunction. For more information, contact a professional like Action Chiropractic