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How to Manage Knee Pain When Sleeping?

Aching joints and discomfort is something which is quite common in people when age starts catching up with them. Among all the joints that become swollen and painful, it is the knee that gives the most problems for people above the age of 60. The pain can be severe enough to impact activities of daily living. Simple walking around the house or outside can be a tough. Sleep is yet another problem that a persistent knee pain can cause.[2]

Arthritis is a common cause for knee pain. Arthritis causes the joint to become stiff and painful. In some cases, the knee pain due to arthritis can become so severe that the affected individual may become literally disabled. Physicians have observed that people with knee pain often at times complain of problems going to sleep and staying asleep for long periods of time. This observation has led to many studies to better understand the relationship with musculoskeletal pain and quality of sleep.[1]

These studies noted that around 25% of people above the age of 50 have knee pain in the general population. The study analyzed data from 9600 participants between the age ranges of 50 and 70. The criterion for sleep disturbance was set at having less than six hours of deep sleep. Among all the participants with sleep problems 30% complained of knee pain as the causative factor. This proved a close link between knee pain and poor sleep quality.[1]

Though there are many ways to control knee pain depending on the cause of it, some simple lifestyle changes can help an individual with knee pain to have a good night’s sleep. This article gives a brief overview of how to manage knee pain when sleeping.[2]

How to Manage Knee Pain When Sleeping?

The best way to manage knee pain when sleeping include:

Warm Bath: Taking a warm bath before going to bed is soothing for the body, especially the joints. It also relaxes the mind of the individual. It instantly helps in relieving knee pain and allows an individual to sleep soundly with little to no pain whatsoever.[2]

The reasons given for this by the Arthritis Foundation are that taking a warm bath before going to bed decreases the pressure put on the knees thus relaxing the knee joint and reducing the pain. It also increases blood flow to the knee joint and helps with the pain. A warm bath decreases swelling and inflammation thus decreasing discomfort and allowing the individual to sleep peacefully.[2]

Sleeping Posture: It is also quite helpful for people with knee pain who cannot enjoy a restful sleep to have a good sleeping posture. Studies suggest that it is best to provide extra support to the knee when sleeping by pillow underneath the knees. This not only provides the support to the knees but also takes away some extra burden from the knees thereby relaxing the joints. If an individual sleeps on the side then a pillow between the knees can be quite effective.[2]

Hot/Cold Packs: Some people use heating pads or cold packs on their knees before going to bed to relieve the pain and discomfort. This provides instant relief and allows the individual to sleep through the night without waking up due to pain. For best results, always apply heat or ice for 16-20 minutes before going to bed.[2]

This reduces the swelling and discomfort and provides relief from pain at night. It should be mentioned here that when using ice pack that this should be wrapped in a towel or a cloth and not applied directly to the knees as this may lead to formation of blisters.[2]

Medication Timings: It is also preferred to adjust the timing of the medications that an individual might be taking for knee pain. This is because if the medication is taken too early then it might wear off in the middle of the night and the individual may start having pain again causing recurrence of pain and disturbing the sleep. It is better to speak to the physician about timing of the medication such that its effect stays for the whole night and the individual gets a full night of sleep.[2]

Weight Loss: Knee pain is quite common in people who are overweight or obese. This is because of the extra weight that is put on the knees due to the fat. This can be best addressed by indulging in healthy weight loss methods. The best way to do it is by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Regular exercise increases blood flow to the joints and keeps them supple and free of stress.[2]

It is best to consult with a trainer who can suggest the best exercise which does not put any extra stress on the knees and still get the desired result. Swimming, biking, cross-fit, and other low impact exercise are best for losing weight in a healthy manner.[2]

Lifestyle Modifications: There are certain activities which when done can put extra stress on the knees and cause pain that may not allow the individual to sleep at night. To prevent this, there are certain modifications that an individual can do during the day. These include not to lift or carry heavy objects to avoid putting extra pressure on the knees. Before doing any intense physical activity like exercising it is best to stretch the knees so that the ligaments and tendons around the joints are properly stretched and ready to handle the pressure of the exercise.[2]

It is also important to wear the correct shoes while exercising or while at work, especially if an individual is employed at a job where he has to do heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling. Additionally, the correct mechanics should be used while lifting to prevent the knees from being damaged further and cause knee pain at night when sleeping.[2]

Appropriate rest should be given to the knees for at least 10 minutes every hour to relax the joints and relieve some of the pressure off of the knees. Some people find wearing compression wraps around the knees quite helpful and this is an effective way to avoid stressing the knees.[2]

If an individual does not find any relief by following the above mentioned tips and believes that pain is in fact worsening at night, then it is better to consult with a physician. The physician may either adjust the dosage of the medication or change the medication altogether for long lasting relief from knee pain.[2]

The physician may also order radiographs of the knees to look for the status of the joint and see if there is something else that might have been missed that is causing the pain. In most cases, physical therapy is recommended to provide relief from knee pain at night and provide good quality sleep to the affected individual.[2]

In cases where the knee is severely damaged then a surgery may have to be performed to provide relief. The surgery will aim at repairing the damage and restore normal functioning of the knee. This will allow the individual to get a restful sleep at night free of any knee pain.[2]

In conclusion, there is a close association between knee pain and poor quality sleep. This has been observed in various studies conducted. There are a variety of treatments available for treating knee pain and improve the quality of sleep. However, there are also certain changes that an individual can do to their lifestyle and daily routine which can help with the knee pain and improve sleep.[2]

These changes may bring about some changes in the severity of the pain and even improve the individual’s sleeping quality. Nonetheless, a workup with the physician is still recommended to get to the bottom of the knee pain that is impacting the quality of sleep of the individual.[2]

The treating physician will have a better idea of what is wrong with the knee and find ways of treating it either with medications or with surgery with the sole aim at decreasing knee pain and improving the quality of sleep of the patient. The physician may order radiographs and conduct other investigations to identify the cause and formulate the best plan for the patient to relieve pain and improve quality of life.[2]


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 29, 2022

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