Thyroid Cancer and Your Muscles: How Treatment Can Affect Muscle Function 11 May 2023

Thyroid Cancer and Your Muscles: How Treatment Can Affect Muscle Function

Understanding Thyroid Cancer

Before diving into the effects of thyroid cancer on muscle function, it's essential to understand what thyroid cancer is. Thyroid cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the thyroid gland, which is located at the base of our neck, just below the Adam's apple. The thyroid gland is responsible for producing hormones that regulate our body's metabolism, including our heart rate and body temperature. When the cells in the thyroid gland grow abnormally, it can lead to the formation of a thyroid tumor, which can be cancerous or benign (non-cancerous).

There are several types of thyroid cancer, such as papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic. The treatment for each type varies, but generally, it includes surgery to remove the tumor, radioactive iodine therapy, hormone therapy, radiation, and chemotherapy. The treatment's side effects can affect the body in different ways, including muscle function.

How Thyroid Cancer Treatment Affects Muscle Function

The treatments for thyroid cancer can have several side effects on the body, including muscle function. These side effects can be temporary or long-lasting, depending on the treatment type and individual circumstances. Some common ways thyroid cancer treatment can affect muscle function are:

Muscle Weakness

One of the most common side effects of thyroid cancer treatment is muscle weakness. This can result from the removal of the thyroid gland, which can lead to a decrease in the production of thyroid hormones. These hormones play a crucial role in regulating our metabolism, which affects muscle strength and function. A lack of thyroid hormones can cause muscle weakness, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

Muscle Pain and Stiffness

Another side effect of thyroid cancer treatment is muscle pain and stiffness. This can be caused by the treatments themselves, such as surgery or radiation therapy, which can damage muscle tissue. Additionally, some medications used to treat thyroid cancer, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause muscle pain and stiffness as a side effect.


Fatigue is a common side effect of cancer treatment, including thyroid cancer treatment. This can affect muscle function by making it difficult to perform everyday tasks and exercise, which can result in a decrease in muscle strength and endurance.

Electrolyte Imbalances

Some thyroid cancer treatments, such as radioactive iodine therapy, can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body. Electrolytes are essential for proper muscle function, as they help regulate muscle contractions and nerve impulses. An imbalance in electrolytes can lead to muscle cramps, spasms, and weakness.

Managing Muscle-Related Side Effects

While muscle-related side effects can be challenging to deal with, there are several strategies you can employ to manage them and maintain muscle function. Some of these strategies include:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can be an effective way to manage muscle weakness and pain caused by thyroid cancer treatment. A physical therapist can help you develop a personalized exercise program to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance, as well as provide guidance on pain management techniques.

Regular Exercise

Regular exercise can help improve muscle function and reduce fatigue caused by thyroid cancer treatment. Be sure to consult with your healthcare team before starting an exercise program, as they can help you determine the appropriate level of activity for your individual circumstances. Start slow and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your exercises to avoid overexertion.

Nutrition and Hydration

Maintaining a balanced diet and staying well-hydrated can help improve muscle function and manage side effects related to electrolyte imbalances. Be sure to consume a diet rich in nutrients, including proteins, vitamins, and minerals, to support muscle health. Additionally, drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich beverages to help maintain proper hydration levels and electrolyte balance.

Medication Management

If muscle-related side effects are caused by medications used to treat your thyroid cancer, talk to your healthcare team about adjusting your medications or exploring alternative treatment options. They may be able to recommend medications to help manage muscle pain, stiffness, or weakness.


Thyroid cancer and its treatments can have several effects on muscle function, ranging from weakness and pain to fatigue and electrolyte imbalances. However, by working closely with your healthcare team and employing strategies such as physical therapy, regular exercise, proper nutrition, and medication management, you can help manage these side effects and maintain your muscle function throughout your cancer journey.

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