Why is my hip aching, and why is my hip pain worse at night?
Whether you’re active or inactive, stand a lot during the day, or spend it sitting behind your laptop, hip pain can be a reality for many.
Hip pain isn’t fun no matter what time it happens. But it can disrupt your sleep and lead to other problems when it occurs at night. A lack of sleep can cause concentration problems, a poor immune system, irritability, and various other unpleasant side effects.
The key to fixing hip pain at night is understanding why it’s happening. Once you know why your hips are sore, you can take the best steps to alleviate the pain, heal your hip, and start getting better sleep.
Let’s look at why hip pain is worse at night and what you can do about it.
Why Does Hip Pain Get Worse At Night?
There are several reasons why your hip pain may be worse at night. One of the most common reasons is sleeping on your side, which places extra pressure on the hip joint, even if your mattress is soft.
If you sleep on the opposite side of the sore hip, it can still make your hip pain worse. This is because the top leg may drift forward and downward onto the mattress, pulling on the bottom joint and increasing hip pain.
Another reason that could make your hip pain worse at night is the temperature drop that happens naturally at night.
During the cold, your muscles may contract, which may place extra strain on tendons and joints, including the hip joints.
You should always consult a doctor to diagnose the root cause of your hip pain so you can treat it effectively.
While you can change your sleeping position to reduce the pain, this is usually difficult to control.
Treating the root cause will help you heal the hip so you can sleep naturally and comfortably.
Most Common Causes of Hip Pain at Night
Understanding what’s causing your nightly hip pain will allow you to treat the root cause. In this way, you can focus on healing the hip, improving your sleep.
Here are the most common causes of hip pain at night.
1. Soreness From Exercising
If you’ve done exercises that place strain on the hip flexors or the hip joints, you may experience soreness in the muscles, joints, and surrounding tendons and ligaments.
The pain may be worse when you exercise more intensely or for longer than you’re used to, as the muscles and joints are not used to that activity level.
While some level of muscle soreness is normal, if it’s debilitating or lasts more than a day or two, you should reduce your frequency, intensity, or workout length in order to avoid overtraining.
Warming the muscles up effectively is the best way to reduce soreness after exercise. Incorporate dynamic stretching before every exercise session, specifically stretching the muscles you’ll be working.
You should also stretch after your session to cool down. Including yoga as a form of cross-training can help to improve your flexibility and reduce the chance of soreness.
Strength training for your hip muscles can also help strengthen weak muscles, reducing your chance of developing hip pain from overuse injuries.
After your exercise, you should have an active recovery routine to reduce muscle and joint pain. You may include foam rolling, massage, and hot or cold therapy as a form of recovery.
You may also consider switching from high-impact exercises to low-impact exercises to reduce joint stress.
2. Hip Bursitis
Bursitis is a condition in which the bursae—the fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning between joints—become inflamed, leading to pain.
There is a bursa on both the inside and the outside of the hip. Trochanteric bursitis occurs when the outer bursa is inflamed, but it’s usually just referred to as hip bursitis.
When the inner bursa is affected—iliopsoas bursitis—you will experience pain in the groin area rather than your side.
When you have pain from bursitis on the outside of the hip, you can aggravate it by sleeping on the affected hip, which puts pressure on the painful bursa.
When you have pain on the inside of the hip, sleeping on the opposite hip may increase the pain. As the top leg relaxes and pulls on the joint, it can place strain on the painful joint as well.
One of the best ways to prevent hip bursitis is to reduce jarring on the joints by changing your shoes to a pair suitable for hip bursitis.
You can also do strength training to improve the strength of your hip muscles and the surrounding muscles.
Incorporating flexibility exercises will help you develop a better range of motion in the hip flexors, which will be less prone to injury.
3. Hip Osteoarthritis
Osteoarthritis can occur in any joint. It happens when the cartilage between the bones wears away after many years of use, causing the bones to rub against each other every time the joint moves.
Hip osteoarthritis can lead to pain, inflammation, and even swelling of the joint. It’s more common in older people, but it can affect younger people too, especially if it runs in the family as you may be predisposed to developing the condition.
At night, it can be worse due to cold, extra pressure on the joint when lying on it, or stiffness after you’ve been in one position for a long time.
Although osteoarthritis can’t be healed, it can be managed. You may go for physical therapy, or your doctor may prescribe pain relief medication.
Another way to protect your hip joints is to change your shoes to ones with more shock-absorbing cushioning, which will help with hip pain.
4. Hip Tendonitis
Tendonitis can also occur anywhere in the body where there’s a tendon. This is when the tendons become inflamed—often due to overuse— and can cause pain and swelling in the affected area.
You may also find that you have stiffness in your hip in the morning, and the pain increases throughout the day.
Depending on which hip tendon is affected, you may feel pain in the front of the hip or on the side of the hip.
At night, you may experience worse pain when lying on the affected hip as the tendon is placed under pressure. If the condition affects the front tendon, you may feel pain as the tendon stretches when you move at night.
Tendonitis is an overuse injury, so the first step to reducing the pain is to rest from the activity that causes the pain.
Resting will help ease the pain and heal the hip. Once the hip is healed, strength and flexibility training will build up the supporting muscles and improve your range of motion.
5. Mattress Is Too Soft or Hard
If your mattress is too hard, it may cause pressure points where you lie and lead to pain. However, if your mattress is too soft, it won’t provide adequate support, and the joints may be placed under strain as they compensate for the mattress sagging.
Metal springs can also contribute to hip pain in some mattresses by placing excess pressure on trigger points.
This could be the reason for your hip pain at night if there are no other underlying causes or injuries that could be the culprit.
Before you immediately invest in a new mattress, it may be a better idea to try a different bed for a while to see if the pain improves. This will help you make an informed decision about what kind of mattress to buy.
You can also buy a more supportive mattress topper to place on top of your mattress if it’s too soft. One easy alternative is to turn your mattress over and use the other side. This can help if the other side has not been used yet as it may be firmer.
You also may want to switch from a regular spring-loaded mattress to a memory foam mattress or a latex mattress if you aren’t sensitive to latex.
Pregnant women may experience hip pain at night as there’s excess stress in the hips and spine during pregnancy, especially in the third trimester.
Studies also show increased musculoskeletal pain in pregnant women due to hormone and physiological changes.
A rare condition called Transient Osteoporosis of Pregnancy—TOP—could also be responsible for hip pain during pregnancy.
If you suffer from unexpected hip pain during pregnancy, we recommend getting checked for TOP to rule out anything serious.
As your body and hormones change drastically during pregnancy, finding a natural, comfortable sleeping position is harder.
Using a pregnancy pillow can help keep you in a comfortable position throughout the night, reducing pressure on the hips and alleviating pain.
You should be careful taking pain relief medication during pregnancy. If your hip pain is bad enough, check with your doctor before taking any medication.
General Tips to Improve Hip Pain at Night
Experiment with Sleeping Position
It can be challenging to change your sleeping position as you move around unconsciously during your sleep.
However, if you can find a position that reduces your pain, it may be easier to stay in that position through the night as your body may not want to move!
Experiment a little with sleeping on your back, your stomach—although this could lead to neck strain—and either side.
Use a Pillow
Apart from a pregnancy pillow—which you can still use even if you aren’t pregnant—you can try to use a pillow to help you stay more comfortable throughout the night.
Placing a pillow underneath your hips can help to cushion them and reduce pressure points, especially if your mattress is too firm.
If your mattress is too soft, placing a firmer pillow under your hips can have a supportive effect, reducing strain on the joints.
Sleeping with a pillow under your knees can also have a beneficial effect, especially if you’re sleeping on your back.
Keep the Room Warm
To avoid hip pain due to a drop in temperature, keep your room warm at night. You may turn your thermostat up a degree or two or simply add an extra blanket to your bed.
Make sure there are no open windows that could lower the temperature. You will also want to check for drafts and block up any gaps where cold breezes can get in.
You should not be so warm that you feel sweaty or uncomfortable. But you should not be cold enough to notice that you’re cold!
Take A Warm Shower
Another way of warming yourself up before bed, loosening tight muscles, and relaxing, is to have a warm shower before bed.
This will warm up the muscles, ligaments, and joints, so nothing will be tense before you go to sleep.