It’s easy to recognize how hip pain can make it more challenging to lead the active and engaged lifestyle you desire. But it can also stand in the way of a restful night’s sleep.

If you’re one of the millions of people who lie awake at night, unable to sleep due to chronic pain, read on to learn more about the relationship between hip pain and your sleep health.

 

Common Causes and Sources of Hip Pain and Problems

Hip pain causes can range from injuries to underlying conditions such as arthritis and bursitis. Conditions affecting other areas, such as the lower back, may also cause referred pain in the hip area.

Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most prevalent hip pain causes, particularly in older adults. While there are more than 100 kinds of arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and infectious arthritis are most likely to cause hip pain.

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. With this condition, joints become inflamed and cartilage breaks down, resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. It typically causes a chronic, dull ache. People with arthritis may experience left hip pain, right hip pain, or both.

Illustration of doctor showing patients an x-ray

Being highly active, especially in running or high-impact sports, can increase your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

Hip Fractures and Sprains

Anyone can fracture or sprain their hip, but seniors and highly active individuals are most at-risk.

Many hip fractures occur because of osteoporosis, a bone disease in which the bones become weak and brittle, making them more susceptible to fractures. It is prevalent among older adults, especially women.

Hip fractures cause a sharp, intense pain initially but may continue to cause a dull ache even after healing. Like any fracture, breaking a hip requires immediate medical attention. Hip replacement and physical therapy may be necessary as well.

On the other hand, sprains and strains are usually caused by trauma, such as a car accident. However, over-stretching the hip muscles and ligaments can also produce strains and sprains.

Tears and Strains

The hip flexors are muscles surrounding the hip which connect it to the thighs. These muscles and connective tendons, are key to moving the lower body.

Hip flexor pain may occur because of a hip flexor strain or tear. Usually, these injuries result from overuse and are most common in athletes, including dancers, cyclists, martial artists, soccer players, and football kickers.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis involves inflammation or irritation of the tendon. It can cause pain, swelling, and tenderness in the surrounding area.

Trauma can lead to tendinitis, but repetitive use injuries are far more often the cause.

Trochanteric Bursitis (Hip Bursitis)

If your hip pain occurs outside of the hip, thigh, or buttocks, bursitis may be the cause. The bursi are fluid sacs that cushion tendons and muscles to prevent them from rubbing directly against the bone. When the bursa becomes inflamed, usually because of repetitive strain or overuse, it can cause pain.

 

Solutions for Sleeping with Hip Pain

Hip pain at night can make it difficult, if not impossible, to get a good night’s sleep. Pain tends to get worse at night, particularly if you’ve spent much of the day being intensely active or, conversely, sitting or standing in one position.

Any of these activities, or lack thereof, can strain the muscles and tendons and stress the joints. And during the night, lying in the same position for hours may only exacerbate the problem, causing you to wake feeling sore and stiff.

To make matters worse, pain sensitivity tends to increase with fatigue, resulting in a vicious cycle. Try these tips to break free.

Adjust Your Sleep Position

If you have hip pain, you’ll want to sleep on your back or the unaffected side. For example, if you have right hip pain, try sleeping on the left side.

Practice Strategic Pillow Placement

Pillows aren’t just for the head and neck. You can also use them to relieve pressure off pain points. While lying on your side, try bending your knees slightly and place a pillow or rolled-up towel between them. Doing so can promote hip alignment and reduce pressure, providing some relief.

You can also set the pillow below the knees if you prefer to sleep on your back. Wedge or knee pillows work best for this purpose.

Buy a Mattress Made for Hip Pain Relief

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all best mattress for hip pain. The ideal product for you primarily comes down to personal preference. However, the best mattresses for hip pain share a few common features.

One is sufficient support. For most people with musculoskeletal pain, a medium-firm mattress is best. These support the spine, promoting alignment. A misaligned spine can put pressure on certain joints and muscles, exacerbating pain.

You’ll also want to ensure the mattress gives sufficiently at the hips and shoulders. Otherwise, it may put too much pressure on your pain points. Beds with multiple comfort “zones” and memory foam or latex tend to be suitable for this purpose.

When shopping, keep your sleep position top of mind as well. Back and side sleepers may find a medium-firm memory foam model is supportive enough. But those who sleep on their stomach may prefer a pillow top or hybrid with an innerspring composition.

Stretch Before Bed and When You Wake Up

Incorporating hip pain exercises into your bedtime routine may help as well. Yoga, particularly poses like the low or high lunge, cobra press-up, wide-knee child’s pose, reclining butterfly, and happy baby, may be beneficial.

Other stretches for hip pain to consider are the half-kneeling hip flexor stretch, kneeling quad stretch, and bed stretch. Find instructions on how to do these and other stretches here.

Others Ways to Find Hip Pain Relief

Regular Low-impact Exercise

While some hip pain is caused by overuse or intense physical activity, in most cases, regular low-impact exercise can enhance flexibility and strength and reduce the risk of injuries occurring in the first place.

Exercise is also a crucial part of injury recovery. Try exercises that don’t put excessive pressure or strain on the hip, such as walking, water aerobics, and swimming.

Hot and Cold Presses

Hot and cold presses or cooling balms can temporarily reduce pain and inflammation.

Avoiding Inflammatory Foods

Inflammatory foods, including alcohol, sugar, and refined carbohydrates, can exacerbate swelling and pain, especially for people with arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Avoiding such foods and incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods, like ginger, turmeric, olive oil, walnuts, fatty fish, and berries, into your diet may relieve some pain.

Over-the-counter Pain Relievers

Over-the-counter pain relievers may help temporarily reduce inflammation and block pain signals to the brain.

Herbal supplements for sleep, including valerian, melatonin, and Passiflora, may also help you get a better night’s rest. Always with your doctor before starting a new medication or supplement.

Hip Pain Relief for a Better Night’s Sleep

Pain can affect nearly every aspect of your life, from your ability to concentrate at work to how well you sleep at night. Fortunately, there are ways to naturally assuage the discomfort and take back control of your health. If you find you’re still unable to get a good night’s sleep after trying the above tips, talk to your doctor or physical therapist.