Thyroid Disease And Your Cervical Vertebra C7

Did you know that thyroid disease may be connected to your cervical spine, your C7 vertebra specifically?

Over the near decade of Hypothyroid Mom, I’ve had the great fortune of meeting many health care professionals with fascinating and unexpected insights on thyroid disease. I’ll never forget the first time a chiropractor mentioned C7. He explained that disruption of any kind to the last cervical vertebrae – C7 – at the base of the neck could mean the nerves and blood supply to the thyroid gland may be interrupted. At first, that name C7 sounded like some abstract term or the name of a robot or a self-driving car or something that didn’t sound related to my body. I had no idea that first time how many times I would later hear C7 repeated out of the mouths of one health care professional after another and all the scientific studies that would later be published on this very topic.

Thyroid & Your Cervical Spine

Damage or misalignment of that vertebra C7 can come from all types of conditions including herniated disc, bulging disc, scoliosis, spondylosis, dehydrated disks, degenerative disk disease, bone spurs, spinal cord infection, stiff ligaments, spinal cord injury, neck sprain, whiplash, fracture, neck arthritis, osteoporosis, cervical spinal fusion surgery, dislocation.

In 2014, the Journal of Craniovertebral Junction & Spine published a case report of a 21-year-old girl admitted to the hospital for chronic neck pain lasting 6 months. She presented with clinical features of hyperthyroidism including tachycardia, anxiety, and poor mental function. Testing revealed tuberculosis infection of the spine, termed Koch’s spine, that had damaged her cervical spine especially at C7. Following surgery that involved removal of C7, this young girl went into thyroid storm, a severe and potentially life-threatening complication of hyperthyroidism.[1]

And this topic invovles all forms of thyroid disease. At the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology in 2014, thousands of rheumatologists met to review the latest advances in research. One of the studies presented was titled Autoimmune Thyroid Disease Is Associated with a Higher Frequency of Spinal Degenerative Disc Disease.[2]

The C7 vertebra at the base of the neck is highly susceptible to degeneration, trauma, disc dysfunction, and misalignment because it bears the primary load from the weight of the head and neck. Run your hand down the back of your neck, do you feel your C7? It’s the one that feels like a bony knob sticking out at the base of the neck. Have you ever experienced terrible neck pain and even pain right there at that bony knob? I have.

The cervical spine (neck region) consists of 7 bones, labeled C1 to C7, and C7 is the last one (the 7th). It’s the one that sits at the base of your neck.

Nerves, Thyroid & Other Body Parts

You see, the nerves linked to the thyroid gland can be mapped down the spine specifically to, you guessed it, C7. And misalignment of C7 can cause pinching of the nerves to the thyroid gland. Look again at that image above and think about it for a moment. C7 is right at the base of the back of the neck and your thyroid gland is right at the base of the front of the neck. Pretty darn close, right.

In 2015, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association published a case report of a 29-year-old woman brought to the emergency room for psychosis caused by hypothyroidism, or myxedema madness. She had a 3-year history of chronic pain ever since a waterskiing accident followed by cervical spine fusions of the C4-C5 and C6-C7. The patient’s hypothyroidism was believed to be caused by a somatovisceral reflex dysfunction related to disruption of the nerves in the region of her cervical spine. While in the ER, imaging of the patient’s cervical spine showed that her previous spinal fusion surgeries had failed. When the failed fusions were surgically corrected, the patient’s hypothyroidism resolved. Two years after the successful refusions of her cervical spine, the woman was pain free no longer requiring pain medications and no longer requiring thyroid treatment.[3]

Misalignment of your C7 vertebra, and all of your vertebra really, can present with symptoms in completely different parts of your body. You see, there are networks of nerves fibers that travel from your neck region to other parts of your body that you wouldn’t expect to be connected. Here’s an example. The nerves of the brachial plexus travel to the scapular region (oh how I hate pain in my shoulder blades!) and into your arms, forearms, and hands. It’s not surprising really when you consider that carpal tunnel syndrome is one of the classic symptoms of hypothyroidism. Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome including a tingling feeling or pins and needles, numbness and sometimes pain in the wrists and hands. Other common thyroid symptoms related to the arms and hands include shoulder and elbow bursitis, tendinitis, tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, frozen shoulder, trigger finger, rotator cuff injury, and peripheral neuropathy.

In 2019, a case study was published in the journal BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders about a 50-year-old man presenting with increasing cervical (neck) pain as well as numbness radiating down his left arm and fingers that medications failed to alleviate. An MRI scan revealed spondylosis of the middle and lower cervical spine, a prolapsed intervertebral disk at C7/T1, as well as a thyroid goiter.[4]

It makes sense now that damage or misalignment of any kind of the C7 vertebra would affect your thyroid gland, but the reverse makes sense too. Given the high occurrence of goiter and thyroid nodules among thyroid patients, as well as enlargement of the thyroid gland from inflammation say from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, it would make sense that any enlargement or protrusion from the thyroid gland may physically press against that C7 vertebra and result in misalignment or even damage from their mere proximity, right.

Pinched Blood Vessels & Thyroid

The cervical spine is intertwined with not just nerves but also blood vessels. C7 disruption can pinch the nerves as well as the blood vessels including the blood vessels to your thyroid gland.

In order to function properly, your thyroid gland requires proper blood flow to carry oxygen-rich blood via arteries to the thyroid gland and take the waste products away from the thyroid gland via veins. If there is disruption to that blood circulation to and from the thyroid gland, say from the blood vessels being pinched by misalignment of your C7 vertebra, it can impact its functioning.

If you look closely at the diagram above you will also notice the carotid arteries which branch off from the aorta (the largest artery in the body) a short distance from the heart. They extend upward through the neck carrying oxygen-rich blood up to the head including your precious brain.

Hypothyroid patients come in droves to Hypothyroid Mom complaining about all sorts of head and brain-related symptoms, everything from brain fog, attention deficit, memory problems, headache, vertigo, mental health issues, hair loss, and eye and ear problems too. Considering the possibility of interrupted blood flow to the thyroid gland but also to the head region from cervical spine disruption, I often ask my Hypothyroid Mom readers with symptoms related to the head region these questions:

Do you experience dizziness, blurry vision, or ringing in your ears upon turning your head from side to side?

Do your brain-related problems calm down when you lie down?

Do your symptoms worsen when your neck is in a particular position?

Sure enough, the answer is more often than not – YES.

References:

[1] Huzurbazar, S., et al. Thyroid storm following anterior cervical spine surgery for Koch’s spine. J Craniovertebr Junction Spine. 2014 Jan-Mar; 5(1):52-54.

[2] Cohen, H., et al. Autoimmune Thyroid Disease is Associated with a Higher Frequency of Spinal Degenerative Disc Disease. 2014 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting. Session Title: Osteoarthritis – Clinical Aspects: Therapeutics. Session Type: Abstract Sessions. Abstract Number: 2252.

[3] Berkowitz, M.R. Resolution of Hypothyroidism After Correction of Somatovisceral Reflex Dysfunction By Refusing of the Cervical Spine. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2015;115(1):46-49.

[4] Themistoklis, K.M., et al. Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion combined with thyroid gland surgery, a tailored case and literature review. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 20629 (2019).

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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.

Comments

  1. This is very interesting and makes total sense! I’ve had hypothyroidism since I was at least 15, I’ve always taken supplements for thyroid and adrenals, I’ve always done chiropractic, usually my supplements take care of the problem, but this past year nothing is working and symptoms are getting worse, I’ve never heard anyone talk about c7 having anything to do with thyroid but makes perfect sense. I also have that nasty bump on the back of my neck . What can anyone do, acupuncture, particular kind of adjustment, I’m confused on what the treatment for this is?

  2. I’m 57. I was in a car accident at 17 and suffered whiplash. I saw a chiropractor after but only made it ache worse so stopped after only a few treatments. I just kept my neck warm all these years and was ok. Fast forward to menopause at 51 – total hysterectomy (large necrotic fibroid) and Graves/RAI at the same time, along with left trigger thumb release, ruptured appendix and broken left wrist plate/screws (all in 1.5 years)! Hormone hell! Suffered on Synthroid and no sex hormones for 2.5 years until I found a Functional Medicine doctor myself and got on NDT and BHRT – much better now. I knew the trigger thumb was related to thyroid problems as I’d found a research article on it, but I didn’t know the whiplash/C7 was related too! Wow! Thank you for this enlightening article!

  3. Wow! An eye opener. I was in a car accident when I was 17 and had whiplash. Thought nothing of it, I have wondered over the years, if that was the beginning of my failed health. I was originally diagnosed with hypothyroidism in my early 20’s. Then later when I was diagnosed with Addison’s disease the doctor told me I actually have Hashimoto Hypothyroidism. Since then I have been diagnosed with RA and Sjogren’s Disease. All the while I’ve had problems with the aching and pains in the base of my neck. Now this makes sense. How come doctors don’t know about these connections?! Thank you for the wealth of information you bring to everyone! You are a godsend!

  4. What about those of us who have had our thyroid removed?

  5. Nancy. Pouchie says

    I have hypothyroidism. I have ringing in my ears and had an accident from a l company truck hittin me from the back.Iwasstoppedat the red light . The driver of the truck foot slipped instead of putting breaks he press gas petal. The C7pained me .what concerns me is the ringing got worse.. I saw ENT he say he don’t know .who treats ringing in ears. It’s terrible

  6. Hi Heather,
    I also have a 21 yr old son who is in constant pain so I do sympathize with you. As a mother, I know how difficult it is to have a child in pain and not being able to help alleviate or take away their pain.
    I am not a doctor or am I trying to diagnose your child. I can only suggest for him to see a Chiropractor since he has scoliosis. Seeing a Chiropractor will help him with his back pain. My son goes to see a Chiropractor weekly due to having Fibromyalgia and is in constant pain. I also go to a Chiropractor every week to get relief from my neck pain that came about from a car accident when I was 18 yrs old. If I skip a week, I notice the difference immediately, not only in my neck but also in my body as a whole.
    My chiropractor has mentioned to me a few weeks ago to go see an Integrative Medicine practitioner. He states they are more comprehensive and seek to find answers to cure ailments/illness instead of just putting a bandaid on it. He referred us to The Kaplan Center for Integrative Medicine.
    I truly hope you can find answers/help for your son’s ailments, so that he may have a better quality of life.
    Sincerely,
    Nancy

  7. Patricia Marietta Alejandro says

    This is very informative and helpful. Thank you very much.
    I am 51 yrs old. I had a back injury when I was 18 yrs old and was diagnosed with lumbo-sacral scoliosis caused by the accident aside from a natural thoracic scoliosis which I may have inherited from my mom’s side. Years later I was diagnosed with hemi facial spasm (HFS) and later on when I gave birth I was also diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
    Your article made me realize that all the things that I was diagnosed with has a lot to do with how I am feeling over the years. Several doctors and a lot of diagnosis cannot explain the pain that I am experiencing. I underwent cholecystectomy 2 years ago and from then on the numbness and tingling sensation I used to experience graduated to my right arm up until the shoulders, my doctor said it is peripheral neuropathy. I have been taking a lot of medicines over the years and I am particularly worried about how my liver takes it. No one doctor can explain this to me until I read your article. Thank you very much!

  8. Heather diamond says

    Hi
    My son has had sever back pain for a number of years now and no health professional believes he has pain. My son is autistic and has been taking over the counter meds for a few years now and has been self medicating by taking to many that all the health professionals think he has a drug seeking problem.
    I have an under active thyroid but my sons thyroid hasent been checked.
    His Gp has now prescribed him meds but he’s now saying they don’t help. He’s had scans and X-rays but they say they can’t find anything wrong. I’m grasping at straws now and trawl the internet for answers. Do you think this could be what he has. He has a bulg at the base of his neck where his head is bends down. He doesn’t have a straight spine he has scoliosis at the top of his spine.
    I’m going to start emailing doctors to see if anyone can help as he’s so suicidal now about the pain that I fear I’m going to lose my son. He deserves to live a pain free life. My sons 21. I was gonna go private but I can’t afford it as I’m a single mum who struggles with my own mental health because of this.
    I work full time try to take care of my son and have no help or support from services.
    Thank you mrs heather diamond

    • I can tell you from personal experience that your son should see a neurologist. And the only scan he should have done is a closed MRI. I had X-rays, and open MRI’s and none of them caught the ruptured disk that was pressing on nerves and the area around my thyroid because it was to the inside of my necks. Insist on a CLOSED MRI. I also have spondylitis and osteophytes that are pressing against my spinal column which can cause some major brain issues at the first sign of inflammation or worsening of the condition. Changes the signals up and down the spinal column. My injuries are at the C4,5 and 6. So not the 7 but I still have issues due to the severe inflammation in the whole area. (headaches, flashing lights, ears ringing, nerve pain and numbness down my right shoulder, arm and hand, dizzyness, limited range of motion, difficulties swallowing etc…). Also, I encourage you to insist your sons thyroid be checked. If a doctor wont do it, find another doctor. If finances are an issue find a local charitable clinic. We found an amazing one for my Autistic son. Also, some hospitals offer financial aid and charity if you qualify. St., Thomas Hospital in Nashville offered me free radiographic options such as free MRI and X-rays along with majorly discounted visits with a world renowned neurologist. Just a little research and paperwork to get access to these amazing options. Best of luck to you and your amazing son….

  9. I have never heard of this link between thyroid and C7. I 2 years ago have had fusions of C4 & C5 and C6 & C7. Now this is making sense! I have now started to decrease my thyroid med because I am on too much.

  10. Lesley Diss says

    I have all the symptoms of hypothyroidism… I’ve never heard of the C7 link before but now wonder if the loud click I get from moving my head sideways might be a spur or arthritis of this vertebrae…? Very interesting!

  11. I have the same question as previously asked. What type of doctor do I search for?
    Thank you, this is wonderful information. I will be sharing with my current Drs.

  12. Katumba Olende says

    This is such an excellent and well written article HTM. I love it. I get a great deal from the guest expert writers on your website but I just absolutely have to drop what I am doing and go through any article that is prepared by you personally. You describe your journey as a personal one and you can relate to the actual suffering that you are writing about. When you fill this with references to medical research it really provides a read worth reading over and over and over again. Thank you for all that you do. I look forward to learning more about the HTM Centers.

  13. Kimberly Luedtke says

    I’ve had neck pain for years. What kind of doctor can help with this?

    • Find a NUCCA (National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association) certified chiropractor! I’ve been going to one for years. He is the only one that has really helped me with my decades old neck pain. Treatments are VERY gentle unlike the usual chiropractic treatment you might be used to. Results are not immediate but if you stick with it you will be very happy.

  14. So where would we go or were do we even start?? Most Endos or MDs think we are crazy..

    • I agree with you. If I mention to my Dr that I might have an answer to my issues that’s worth investigating, that he can’t figure out, he gets highly defensive. Any suggestions….

    • NANCY A ESTEPA says

      Go to a Chiropractor. I go every week to get some relief from my neck pain. If I skip a week, I notice it immediately.

  15. So what can be done about it?!

    • NANCY A ESTEPA says

      Go to a Chiropractor. I go every week to get some relief from my neck pain. If I skip a week, I notice it immediately.

  16. Judy Frazier says

    this explains all I have a thickening of my C7 that shows up in my MRI’s I have had neck issues most of my life & also have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroid Why don’t Dr’s put these neck issues & thyroid together to get a better diagnosis?

  17. Love this.

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