Losing sleep with hip pain?
Anyone suffering from hip pain at night knows how it can affect everything you do, whether it’s the restlessness at night or the tiredness during the day.
You start the night uncomfortable, with hip pain kicking in soon after you lie on your side. If you roll over, you still get the same hip pain even if you’re not lying on that hip.
The lack of sleep night after night only makes things worse and your days take on a zombie-like feel.
So what causes hip pain at night and how can you avoid it?
What causes hip pain at night?
The timing of your hip pain during the night can often help figure out the cause.
If your hip only becomes painful after hours of sleeping – usually around 3am – it’s more likely to be related to osteoarthritic (OA) changes in the hip cartilage (but that’s not all doom and gloom – read the good news on hip arthritis here).
Another useful clue is how it responds to movement in the morning.
Gluteal tendon and/or bursa issues (which usually happen together) will usually start the day OK but get sore as you spend more time on your feet.
Hip osteoarthritis will often start quite painful and stiff as soon as you’re standing but then loosen up with more walking.
How can you avoid hip pain at night?
The way to fix hip pain at night in the long term is to address the underlying cause, such as loss of strength or hip range.
With the underlying cause under control, the pathology causing your pain will gradually recover and resolve…but how long will that take?
Sleepless nights are the immediate problem and knowing there is a solution that’ll help over a number of weeks is not going to cut it.
You need sleep and you need it NOW!
So to relieve the symptoms and get some shut eye, there are some quick shortcuts to stop the hip pain at night.
Quick fixes for hip pain at night
If your pain kicks in soon after you lie down, place a pillow or rolled towel between your knees to avoid the tendon and bursa being under tension. To help keep a rolled towel in place, roll it up and wrap it in elastic bands or electrical tape to keep its shape. You should also place the pillow or towel at right angles to the leg – placing it along the line of the leg makes it easier for the leg to fall off the support during the night.
If you’ve got the option, switch to lying on your front or back. It’s not for everyone but if you can tolerate it, it’s an easy way to avoid putting pressure directly on the hip. You can even place a pillow under your knees (if you’re on your back) or under your waist (if you’re on your front) to put the hip in a more relaxed position.
Anti-inflammatory medication can help manage the underlying condition but should only be taken under the advice of a doctor or pharmacist. Remember that it’s not a solution in its own rite but can give you a decent night’s sleep while you work on the underlying cause.
Long term fixes for hip pain at night
Strength exercises that focus on hip strength without compression are very effective, although not as fast acting as the above options. They’re the best solution for long term management of hip issues, beating medication and most surgeries in research trials.
Better footwear is a great way to improve the loading pattern on hips and take away hip pain at night related to overload. You’ll tend to find supportive shoes are the best option – here’s our most recommended shoes for different types of feet (eg. wide, narrow, etc) to reduce hip loading.
Regular exercise like daily walking or running is the perfect way to maintain good hip health. It’s usually not a good way to recover from hip pain at night, but it’ll certainly avoid the night pain coming back if you can pick up the daily exercise routine after the episode.
Buying a new mattress is a common act of desperation after a few weeks without a decent night’s sleep. But it might be an expensive way of finding out your mattress isn’t the culprit. If your mattress is terrible, and you get a better sleep on another bed in the house (if you have one available), go and invest in a mattress that suits your preference. Just be wary that “supportive” mattresses can provide a lot less support if you add a plush “pillowtop” to it. While it may feel comfortable in the showroom, it’ll cause you to sink in and most hip issues don’t like that.