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Can Low Testosterone Cause Joint Pain (From A Doctor)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Last updated: January 5, 2023

In a recent conversation with an endocrinologist, he mentioned how low testosterone can often be a culprit for achy joints.

I know that obesity directly causes this issue, but I also wanted to find out if slim people can experience joint pain just because of low testosterone levels.

So, I spent a few days examining the scientific literature and discussing testosterone’s role in bone and joint health with the same endocrinologist.

Here are the most important points.

Quick Summary

  • Testosterone is essential for bone health, and its deficiency can lead to inflammation and joint pain.
  • With low testosterone, you risk developing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.
  • You can improve your low testosterone levels naturally with exercise, healthy eating, and specialized natural supplements.

Do Low Testosterone Levels Cause Joint Pain?

A person with low testosterone suffering from joint pain

Yes, low testosterone levels can cause joint pain. Low levels can be directly linked to joint pain and arthritis and indirectly through weight gain, which affects bone cartilage and joint health.

Testosterone plays a significant role in building muscle mass, increasing strength, but also in bone and joint health, and studies confirm that having balanced T levels is good for healthy joints [1].

Later on, we’ll examine some of these studies to see how they have attributed testosterone to chronic joint pain, both directly and indirectly.

The Connection Between The Two

An athlete with low testosterone suffering from joint paint

To properly understand the link between testosterone and joint pain, let's begin by analyzing the role of testosterone.

The male sex hormone (although present in females as well) regulates many significant bodily functions [2].

These functions include:

  • Body and facial hair growth
  • Fat distribution
  • Bone mass and density in both sexes
  • Sex drive in both sexes
  • Muscle mass
  • Male organ development in the embryonic stage

That said, research shows that testosterone has a significant role in bone health [3].

Notably, the hormone reduces inflammation throughout the body, and joints benefit from optimal T levels as well.

Studies have also revealed that people with low testosterone levels experience achy joints, and following the testosterone boost, they experience significant joint pain relief [4].

Moreover, according to Swedish researchers, conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can be directly linked to low levels of testosterone [5].

RA is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues by mistake.

1. Low Testosterone and Osteoporosis

A person suffering joint pain on his elbows because of low testosterone

When you stay for long with low levels of testosterone, you risk developing osteoporosis [6].

Osteoporosis is a condition where bones lose mass and density. Bones become weak, brittle, and vulnerable to bone fractures.

Doctors use bone mineral density (BMD) tests to diagnose osteoporosis and measure bone density through T scores [7].

Healthy bone density levels should be between +1 and -1 standard deviation. So when the T scores go below -2.5, you’re diagnosed with osteoporosis.

Now, to better understand the role of testosterone in all this, let's look at how bones form, as well as testosterone’s role in the process.

How Bones Form and The Hormone’s Role

Osteoblasts, osteoclasts, and osteocytes are cells that are essential in bone formation [8].

Here are the roles they play:

  • Osteoblasts - cells from the bone marrow vital in initial bone formation and bone remodeling. They gather minerals in teams and deposit them to form new bone structures or reinforce new ones.
  • Osteoclasts - cells that have a significant role in bone resorption, where old bones are broken down so new minerals can be deposited to strengthen them.
  • Osteocytes - cells that form the inner structure of the bone. When there is a crack or fissure, they direct the osteoclasts to dissolve old bone so that the osteoblasts can reinforce it.

Now, testosterone is primarily helpful for bones during osteoblast activity. So, when T levels are down, there is less osteoblast activity and no bone formation.

Note that while testosterone levels have fallen, the breaking down of bone in the osteoclast activity remains relatively unchanged.

Hence, the lack of reinforcement after bone breakdown may result in weak bones, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.

2. Testosterone Deficiency and Weight Gain

A man with osteoporosis because of low testosterone

Research shows men with low testosterone have high body fat [9].

Testosterone also plays a role in the metabolism of carbs, fats, and protein [10].

Low levels of the hormone, therefore, result in: 

  • Low insulin sensitivity
  • Increased fat mass
  • High blood sugar
  • Low HDL “good” cholesterol and high LDL “bad” cholesterol

This likely leads to increased body weight. And when you’re overweight, the pressure on your joints puts you at risk of developing osteoarthritis, which causes inflammation, joint stiffness, and pains.

“Increased body weight will put more pressure on your bones and joints, which will weaken them and may lead to joint pain.”

- Mike Kocsis, BMH Medical

6 Reasons Levels Decrease

A doctor explaining the reasons for low testosterone

Testosterone levels decrease due to a few reasons, some of which are in your control or can at least be influenced by your choices and lifestyle.

1. Age

Studies show that T levels in men drop at a rate of 0.4 - 2% annually after 30 [11].

2. Injury

Testosterone is developed in the testes. Hence, any trauma or infection in this area could lead to decreased production.

New research reveals that even concussions could lead to low testosterone [12].

3. Medical Conditions

Numerous medical conditions could also lead to decreased testosterone production [13].

Conditions like:

  • Chronic renal failure or the loss of kidney function
  • Liver cirrhosis or the scarring of the liver
  • Klinefelter syndrome (a genetic condition)
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hormonal imbalance (excess estrogen)
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes

You can also find information about hypothyroidism and low testosterone in this article.

4. Some Treatments or Therapies

Certain medications have side effects of decreased T levels.

These include:

  • Cancer treatments through chemotherapy and radiotherapy
  • Some antidepressant medications
  • High blood pressure treatments
  • Opioids
  • Fungal or yeast medications

Additionally, prostate cancer medications intentionally lower T levels to halt the growth of prostate cancer [14].

5. Substance Use

Alcohol can lead to liver cirrhosis [15]. And as we saw earlier, one of its symptoms is low testosterone.

Other substances, such as opioids and androgenic anabolic steroids can also lead to decreased T levels, especially in the long run [16].

6. Diet and Lifestyle

It is a well-known fact that diet significantly influences hormones, including testosterone [17]. By eating certain foods like fatty fish and eggs and avoiding others that contain phytoestrogens like soy, you can significantly impact your overall levels.

It is also well-documented that exercise affects testosterone levels [18]. So, working out is one of the best ways to build overall health and confidence and fight the natural testosterone decline.

How to Increase the Male Sex Hormone

A doctor explaining to a patient how to increase testosterone

You can increase testosterone naturally or through medication. I always advise the first approach to all my clients unless medical intervention is requested by the doctor.

To do it naturally generally means changing the lifestyle.

This includes:

  • Weight management through regular exercise and strength building
  • Eating a lot of protein and opting for whole carbs and healthy fats
  • Stress management
  • Supplementing the diet with zinc and vitamin D
  • At least seven hours of uninterrupted sleep

Testosterone replacement therapy might also help with joint pain, even for people with osteoarthritis [19].

It has been documented to improve sex drive, boost energy and help increase bone density.

However, while effective, it comes with a hefty list of potential risks to your health and well-being.

It can negatively affect your cardiovascular system and long-term hormonal health.

That’s why I always advise my clients to opt for natural testosterone boosters that contain natural science-backed herbs and nutrients that support the body’s natural testosterone production.

FAQs

What Are the Warning Signs of Low Testosterone?

The warning signs of low testosterone include erectile dysfunction, reduced sex drive, shrinking testicles, fatigue, depression and anxiety, loss of armpit and pubic hair, weight gain, muscle pain, hot flashes, and low sperm count.

Which Exercises Boost Testosterone the Most?

Exercises that boost testosterone the most include heavy weight lifting and high-intensity exercises. They help burn fat and develop lean muscle, which additionally boosts T levels.

Boost Your Testosterone to Relieve Joint Pain

If you’re experiencing joint pain and suspect low testosterone, first consult a medical professional to confirm this.

With no underlying conditions, you don't have to resort to medical hormone replacement therapy. Getting your testosterone levels back to normal with diet and exercise is a good start.

I also advise my clients to include these natural testosterone boosters in the mix since they support the body’s natural T production.

We’ve thoroughly tested the products on this list, and both our testing data and client feedback reports show that they are effective in improving T levels.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7867125/
  2. https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/understanding-how-testosterone-affects-men
  3. https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/84/6/1966/2864549
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24712761/
  5. https://ard.bmj.com/content/73/3/573
  6. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/osteoporosis/causes/
  7. https://www.bones.nih.gov/health-info/bone/bone-health/bone-mass-measure
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5036835/
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3120209/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23378050/
  11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4707424/
  12. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaneurology/fullarticle/2748920
  13. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/l/low-testosterone
  14. https://www.health.harvard.edu/medications/testosterone--what-it-does-and-doesnt-do
  15. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25087838/
  16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571549/
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266690/
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7739287/  
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4767784/
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