How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

When this chiropractor contacted me about the importance of good posture for thyroid health, there I was slumped in my chair typing a reply on my computer keyboard. I had never really given much thought to my poor posture quite honestly, until then.

Written by Brent Wells, D.C.

Many readers may recall as children being admonished by their mothers or grandmothers to “Stand up straight!” At the time, you may have thought this frequent lecturing was all due to their antiquated notions of prim and proper behavior. However, it turns out that good posture is pretty important. Today, with the proliferation of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices people are frequently crouched over which is really wrecking their spines and necks.

In addition to causing back, shoulder, neck, and head pain, too much cervical curvature from poor posture can put pressure on the support system surrounding your thyroid gland. In extreme cases, this can result in compression of the carotid arteries, but is more likely to cause compression or stretching of the veins and arteries that feed the thyroid – such as the superior thyroid artery. Such manipulation of these blood vessels can ultimately result in diminished performance of the thyroid due to blood pressure changes.

Thyroid Location

The thyroid gland is located at the base of the neck (in men it is located just below the area of the Adam’s apple). Most people have two lobes that are joined together by the thyroid isthmus (a small bridge of tissue connecting the two larger parts). There are also two sets of parathyroid glands, usually two on each lobe. However, there is a great deal of variety when it comes to an individual’s thyroid and parathyroid placement, structure, form, and function.

Roughly 40% of people have a third lobe, located over the isthmus and stretching up towards the hyoid bone. Some people have an extra muscle around the thyroid, a different pattern of blood vessels/nerves, and some thyroids are completely separated or further apart – almost on the side of the neck instead of in front. Most structural differences are nothing to worry about, assuming that they do not impact the functioning of the thyroid and/or parathyroid glands.

How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

Thyroid Function

There are seven hormones of importance that are produced directly by the thyroid and parathyroid glands, or by the metabolites (the broken down components of those hormones):

T0 (thyronamine) is produced by the breakdown of the metabolites of T3 and T4. Its current role is unknown, but the concentration is regulated by T1 and the processes which produce T3/T4.

T1 (iodothyronamine) is also produced by the breakdown of the metabolites of T3 and T4. It places downward pressure on body temperature and cardiac output.

T2 (diiodothyronine) increases the basal metabolic rate and raises body temperature ( to maintain a constant, normal body temperature). It also suppresses TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which reduces the production of T3 and T4.

T3 (triiodothyronine) effects practically every major process in the body including growth, development, metabolism, body temperature, brain development, and heart rate. It elevates levels of T3 and T4 which will inhibit the production of TSH at the pituitary level.

T4 (thyroxine) is the primary thyroid hormone. Its main role is to balance and provide feedback for the production of T3. It was first synthesized in 1926 and is used to treat hypothyroidism.

Calcitonin is necessary for the proper functioning of the feedback mechanism regulating blood calcium levels and it prevents reabsorption of calcium through the kidneys’ renal tubules.

Parathyroid hormone is secreted by the parathyroid glands in response to low blood calcium levels, promoting osteoclasts to break down bone and release calcium.

How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

Thyroid Dysfunction

Injury, damage, or otherwise malfunctioning thyroid can result in generally one of two conditions: hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a catchall term for a number of conditions in which the thyroid is producing too much of the various thyroid hormones. Hypothyroidism is the opposite problem, where the thyroid is producing too little. Specific conditions, which are causing either the hormonal imbalance, can have other symptoms as well.

Graves’ Disease

Graves’ Disease is the most common form of hyperthyroidism in the developed world. It affects roughly 1 in 200 people. However it affects women roughly six times more often than men. It is considered an autoimmune disease. Unlike many other autoimmune diseases, your immune system is not attacking the thyroid gland. Instead, there is an antibody – thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin (TSI) – that mimics the action of thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) coming from the hypothalamus in the brain.

An affected person can end up with a goiter, bulging eyes (called Graves’ ophthalmopathy), sleep problems, irregular heartbeat, and problems maintaining a constant body temperature. Treatment usually involves one of these three options: radioactive iodine that kills some of the thyroid cells, surgery to remove the thyroid, and drugs that block the thyroid’s uptake of iodine. In those with severe Graves’ ophthalmopathy, separate treatment will be necessary to preserve normal eye function.

Postpartum Thyroiditis

Affecting 5-10% of women after childbirth (in countries where iodine-deficiency is not a problem), postpartum thyroiditis is a condition in which the thyroid becomes inflamed due to an immune reaction following childbirth. Most instances of the disease begin two to six months following childbirth, and it is frequently misdiagnosed as either stress from the arrival of an infant or as postpartum depression.

The disease usually presents initially as hyperthyroidism with anxiety, sleep problems, brittle hair, increased sweating and salivation, tremors, and/or bowel problems. Some women, however, have mild or no symptoms until the disease changes course and becomes hypothyroidism with symptoms of fatigue, depression, strange tactile sensations, hearing problems, circulation problems, and potential heart problems.

The disease is believed to be caused by immune system changes during pregnancy, and the sudden physical shifts once the baby is delivered. If the immune system does not produce, or stops producing the antibodies that are affecting the thyroid within a year after birth, the disease should clear up. If antibodies are produced, the condition could convert into Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and become permanent or irreversible.

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis is the most common form of thyroid inflammation, and also the most common thyroid disorder in the United States. It affects approximately 14 million people. It is an autoimmune disease, that can lead to the destruction of the thyroid.

Early on, there can be few or no symptoms, but with progression, symptoms will eventually develop including trouble maintaining body temperature, joint and muscle pain, a goiter or neck swelling, bowel problems, depression, heart rate disruptions, and difficulty becoming pregnant. In severe instances, thyroid lymphoma can develop – a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Treatment usually involves thyroid hormone replacement medication.

Thyroid Health Promotion

There are many ways to promote thyroid health such as diet and exercise. However, as noted, many people neglect to attend to spinal health and posture as part of their thyroid health promotion and maintenance plan. If you want to prevent thyroid problems or if you already have a thyroid condition and want to support wellness try these techniques for spinal health.

Lifestyle Factors

Just as with other conditions, you can control certain lifestyle choices and factors in order to improve your health, which will benefit your cervical spine and subsequently your thyroid. As noted, start with good posture to support spine health. Be especially careful when looking at a screen. If necessary, move it up to avoid straining your neck.

Beyond that, exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and maintain a healthy weight. Doing all three of these can help take pressure off of your neck and shoulders while strengthening those areas as well. Lastly, do not smoke. Besides the obvious and oft repeated effects of smoking, it also is a contributing factor for cervical disc disease.

How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

Exercises

A number of exercises can be done at home to help improve posture and neck strength. As with any new health intervention, it is advisable to work with and consult with a chiropractor or another type of physiotherapist before trying anything new. There are two basic types of exercises that you need utilize for spine health. The first of these is isometric (static, not moving) and the second is dynamic (with movement).

An example of a static exercise is to stand with your feet flat on the floor, back to a wall, and then try to flatten your head, neck, and shoulders against the wall for twenty to thirty second intervals, taking a short break in between. A good dynamic exercise would usually involve using elastic bands or weights to build up strength in your neck and upper shoulders. You would want to do these activities 2 to 5 days per week.

Closing Thoughts

While thyroid problems can occur from a multitude of reasons, some of which are outside of your control, one factor you can control is your posture. Consider your posture and spine health as ingredients for managing your thyroid condition. I recommend that you consult with the proper providers, such as doctors of chiropractic care and thyroid specialists to help you manage the condition.

How Posture Affects Your Thyroid

About Brent Wells, D.C.

Dr. Brent Wells founded Alaska’s Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab in 1998. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Nevada and his doctorate from the Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Oregon. Today, he works as the top Anchorage chiropractor, where he diligently serves the community. When not with his family, continuing his professional education, or helping at the clinic, he can be found playing guitar.

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About Dana Trentini

Dana Trentini founded Hypothyroid Mom October 2012 in memory of the unborn baby she lost to hypothyroidism. This is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consulting your physician regarding medical advice pertaining to your health. Hypothyroid Mom includes affiliate links including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Connect with Dana on Google+

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