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Monthly Archives

November 2020

Hashimoto’s Disease, Hypothyroidism and Exercise


Four years after the birth of my second child I was eventually diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease. It was a long journey to get the diagnosis, as although I felt very unwell, I was regularly advised that there wasn’t anything wrong with me. So, I just presumed all my symptoms were related to being a busy mum who ran a business.

The symptoms I was experiencing were:

  • Lethargy / Fatigue
  • Weight gain and fluid retention
  • Depression / Low mood
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Breathlessness
  • Dry skin
  • Poor concentration
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Decreased libido
  • Menstrual changes

Other symptoms that people with Hashimoto’s Disease experience are:

  • Increased sensitivity to cold
  • Thinning of hair and eyebrows
  • Constipation
  • Enlarged thyroid (Goitre)
  • Decreased fertility


Hashimoto’s Disease is now considered the most common Autoimmune diseases and affects the thyroid gland (Beynon, & Pinneri, 2016). It usually causes hypothyroid symptoms, however, it is possible for Hashimoto symptoms to swing between hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Hypothyroidism (underactive Thyroid) is more common in women than men, with estimates that 10 times more women than men are affected. Hypothyroidism is typically gradually progressive, with symptoms increasing as thyroid function deteriorates.

Hyperthyroidism, or overactive thyroid, occurs if the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, causing every function in the body to speed up.

For me, the medication made a huge difference, but being a physiotherapist, I wanted to know more about my condition and what else I could do – especially in the areas of exercise and movement.

Exercise has been shown to be effective in improving thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Studies have shown that medium-intensity aerobic exercise (classified as 70% of a person’s maximum heart rate) produced the best results for improving TSH.  However, if exercise is too intense, too lengthy or too frequent, there may not be enough time for the body to restore normal levels of thyroid hormones T3 and T4.

Correlation between physical activity and signs of autoimmune flare-ups varies from one person to another.

For me, the perfect exercise turned out to be Pilates – I could work hard enough to get the intensity I required to support and stimulate TSH levels, without producing the negative reactions associated with over-exercising.  The other addition I made to my exercise routine was to start training with an Exercise Physiologist for my weights training and cardiovascular workouts. My EP was able to monitor me and understood the pathophysiology of Hashimoto’s Disease (I highly recommend Natalie Soldatenko at The Body Refinery).


Ten years on, I am feeling the best I have ever felt – I feel like I am 20 again. My advice to women experiencing any of the symptoms listed earlier, is to get your thyroid tested, and if a thyroid issue is identified, see an endocrinologist and start to exercise appropriately by training with someone who has the training to properly understand autoimmune conditions.


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Written by Susan Cottrell, Physiotherapist and Director of The Body Refinery

How should I set up my desk?


With so many of us working from home at the moment you may be thinking “how am I meant to set up my desk?”  Here is a short guide with some tips to help you work from home comfortably.

The first thing to remember is there is not just one right way to sit at a desk and it may look slightly different depending on your work demands and your body.  It is important to remember that even the best posture is not going to be completely comfortable eight hours a day.  Our bodies are just not designed to sit for that long!  Your posture should be comfortable and natural for you.




First of all, sit with your feet flat on the floor and your chair height so that your hips are just above your knees. A good seat that is adjustable and has some lumbar support will serve you well. If your seat does not have any low back support an easy solution is to fold up a towel and place it behind your low back. You should be sitting with a slight tilt backwards at around 100-120 degrees, rather than directly upright.



The desk should be at a level where your elbows are by your side and forearms can rest on the desk around 90 degrees.  Make sure that the things you use regularly, like the keyboard and mouse, are within reach while sitting and you are not stretching to reach them repeatedly throughout the day.



Screen height is one of the key things that can make a big difference to the neck and upper back strain.  If you imagine your screen is divided into thirds: top, middle, and bottom.  When sitting comfortably, your eyes should fall at the line dividing the top and middle thirds of the screen. This is usually where laptops fail.  If you are trying to work with a laptop, consider purchasing a separate keyboard so that you are able to raise the screen.


It is important to stand and move often.  As a general rule getting up every hour to stretch, move and reset will help keep your body feeling good.


If you would any further advice on setting up your desk at home, our team are here to guide you.  This information is quite general and a more detailed assessment by an Osteopath or Physiotherapist can help individualise the set-up. We are available for 1-on-1 appointments or take advantage of our Telehealth option, which should allow us to view your set-up and help tailor it to your needs.


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Written by Osteopath Natalie Anderson