Can Acupuncture Help To Relieve Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Symptoms?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of ailments. Although the discovery of Hashimoto's disease is recent relative to the advent of acupuncture, the symptoms it causes have been around for a long time.

So, is acupuncture for Hashimoto’s disease an effective treatment option?

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

What is Hashimoto's disease?

Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disease. When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system treats your own body as an invader and begins to attack it. Autoimmune diseases can affect nearly every body part.

Also known as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, the disease is an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid. After being attacked for too long by your immune system, your thyroid gland no longer produces as many of its vital hormones as it should. This condition is known as hypothyroidism and is a common result of Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Risk factors

Doctors don't know the exact causes of Hashimoto's, but data tells us who is most likely to develop the disease. Since Hashimoto's disease does not present any distinctive symptoms, your doctor and you can determine its cause.

By familiarizing yourself with the risk factors, you’ll better understand how these diseases may affect you.

Genetics

Genetic factors can play a role in increasing your chances of developing Hashimoto's disease. If someone in your family has had the disease, you are at an increased risk of developing it. The risk of Hashimoto's thyroiditis has been linked to several genes.¹

Being a female

Women are more likely than men to develop Hashimoto's thyroiditis, especially middle-aged ones.² This is believed to be partly true since women have two X chromosomes. The X chromosome contains several genes that are important for proper immune function.

Excessive iodine levels

Iodine plays an important role in thyroid function. Because of this, excessive iodine intake is connected to Hashimoto's.  Studies show a direct link between iodine consumption and the development of Hashimoto's disease.¹

Exposure to radiation

Radiation exposure can increase the risk of Hashimoto's disease.³ Whether the radiation comes from a catastrophic event, like nuclear fallout, or from a common source, like medical radiation, the risk remains the same.

Other autoimmune diseases

Having another autoimmune disease also increases the risk of Hashimoto's. Common disorders seen alongside Hashimoto's include celiac disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms

Many people with Hashimoto's disease have no symptoms at first. They may have the condition for many years without knowing that they have it. 

As the thyroid weakens and as the disease progresses, symptoms of hypothyroidism will begin to appear. The symptoms of hypothyroidism vary from person to person. Some of the most common include:

ComplicationsThe most serious complication from Hashimoto’s disease is myxedema coma. It occurs when hypothyroidism becomes so severe that the body's functions slow to the point of becoming life-threatening.

Despite the name, myxedema coma doesn't necessarily render someone unconscious. Still, it affects multiple organs and can lead to progressive mental deterioration.

Myxedema coma is a medical emergency and requires immediate attention from a healthcare professional.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice. Those who practice acupuncture believe that the human body has a series of pathways that create an energy flow called Qi. According to traditional Chinese medicine, this energy flow is responsible for the body’s overall health.

Acupuncture uses thin metallic needles to puncture the body at the intersections of these pathways, called acupuncture points.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Those who fear needles may be wary of acupuncture, though most people report little pain from the procedure. The needles used by an acupuncturist are hair-thin and not like medical needles, which need to carry fluid to or from the body.

The feeling they cause is often described as a pressure or mild ache rather than pain.

How acupuncture affects the body

It’s not known exactly how acupuncture affects the body. However, it has been shown to reduce pain from several different conditions.

In most studies, researchers use simulated acupuncture to rule out the placebo effect.⁴ Simulated acupuncture uses blunt-tipped needles that apply pressure to the skin without penetrating it. It's suspected that acupuncture stimulates the central nervous system and prompts the release of various chemicals in the body that aid in pain relief. 

Will acupuncture help Hashimoto's disease?

There have been no completed studies on the effectiveness of acupuncture on Hashimoto's disease. Two study protocols have been designed to explore the potential for acupuncture to aid Hashimoto’s patients, but the results are not yet in.

The first study looks at mood swings, fatigue, and neck pressure symptoms.⁵ These are common symptoms experienced by Hashimoto’s patients. The researchers also hope to test for any effects acupuncture may have on the immune disorder.

The other is designed to look specifically at fertility in women.⁶ The study aims to see if acupuncture can halt or delay the progression of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and improve fertility outcomes in women with the disease.

When practiced by a qualified practitioner who takes proper precautions, few complications have been reported due to acupuncture.⁴ If you wish to try acupuncture for Hashimoto's symptoms, consult your doctor first.

Keep in mind that there is no evidence that acupuncture can restore thyroid function. In the early stages of the disease, or mild cases, hormone levels aren't low enough to require medical intervention, but mild symptoms may still present themselves.

If you experience symptoms like those from the study protocol above: mood swings, fatigue, and neck pressure, then acupuncture may be worth trying.

Other treatments for Hashimoto's

Hashimoto's disease itself has no treatment. Instead, the resulting hypothyroidism can be treated with Levothyroxine, a medication identical to the hormones your thyroid produces.⁷

A doctor will perform regular blood tests to measure hormone levels and balance your dosage. These blood tests will continue at less frequent intervals when your medication dosing is correct to monitor for changes in your condition.

Quitting smoking and avoiding high-iodine diets are recommended to prevent the disease from progressing. 

The lowdown

Although conclusive scientific evidence of how acupuncture works don’t exist, and studies of its effects on Hashimoto's have yet to be completed, there is some evidence that acupuncture can help relieve pain. If you want to try acupuncture for Hashimoto's symptoms, consult your doctor. When choosing an acupuncturist, it’s important to pick a qualified one.

  1. Hashimoto's thyroiditis: From genes to the disease (2011)

  2. Hashimoto's syndrome | Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

  3. Environmental issues in thyroid diseases (2017)

  4. Acupuncture: In depth | National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

  5. Acupuncture for Hashimoto thyroiditis: Study protocol for a randomized controlled trial (2021)

  6. The efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment and the fertility improvement in child-bearing period female with Hashimoto Disease (2020)

  7. Levothyroxine | MedlinePlus Other sources:

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Hashimoto's disease, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

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