Really sorry that you're suffering with this, believe me I know what you are going thru, as I've been there. Mine usually occur in my legs and feet at nite, but I did have the situation where my hands would cramp up or my ribcage contort into a very painful mess.
The problem with cramps is that they can occur from so many different things... often in the same person... so its really difficult to say what it can be for you.
It sounds like you've been given some great direction here from other team members, about thyroid hormone and its effects on our muscles and nerves... so I won't reiterate what they've already said.
However if you are finding that you are having these cramps when your thyroid hormones have been optimized, you may want to get your blood tested to see what your electrolyte status is.
Cramps usually are caused by an imbalance in your electrolytes. Electrolytes for those who don't know, are minerals like Calcium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium that need to be in balance in order to carry an electrical charge effectively thru celluar tissue.
Calcium is tightly regulated in the body by our parathyroid glands. These are 4 or more rice sized glands located on the back of your thyroid. If your calcium is consistantly out of range high, then you may have an enlarged parathyroid gland which may need to be surgically removed.
Ironically one cause of extreme nighttime cramps for me this summer, was low sodium. Sodium's counterpoint is Potassium. Low sodium can be a problem for some of use with hypothyroid disease to begin with.... I was adding to the problem by eating a diet of fresh unprocessed foods, which contain lots of potassium and very little sodium... drinking lots of distilled water which contain no minerals, and was sweating out a great deal of sodium in my workouts at the gym. A blood test revealed high potassium and low sodium. So I began adding stuff like miso past and soy sauce to my diet and using a bit of sea salt on my eggs and other foods and my cramps went away.
Magnesium is another goodie, it helps relax muscles... its a counterpart to calcium. This is why Epsom salts are great for aches and pains, they are Magnesium Sulfate Salts. When we supplement with Calcium its a good idea to have a bit of Magnesium in the mix, as Magnesium isn't as easy to get from the diet as Calcium. Sometimes for me its not the sodium... last nite I took a Magnesium Citrate (400mg) and Calcium and the cramps vanished.
Another thing to be sure you're getting is B12, particularly if you don't eat a lot of meat, or have been Dxed with low stomach acid or anemia. B12 along with healthy fats found in fish oil, help create the myelin sheath that surrounds our nerves, keeps them from short circuiting, much the way insulation on an electrical wire will. A good form of its is methyl-cobalamine, which has been shown in some studies to also help stablize the retina.
Dehydration is another cause, veneous insufficiency, wearing high heels or a tight pair of shoes that compresses nerves in your feet, tight pants, a compromised lower spine.
So you really do have to be a detective and figure out what's causing your problem each time it occurs,... chances are your cramping has multiple causes at different times, which is what makes it so difficult to diagnose and treat.
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