A close-up of a knee being looked at by a doctor

How to Relieve Knee Pain at Night


A meeting point of the femur, patella, and tibia, the knee joint is a highly complex joint that bears the brunt of everyday stress stemming from intense physical activities. Femur stands for thigh bone, patella for kneecap, and fibula and tibia are the lower leg bones and the exact place where all these meet; they end up forming the knee. This hinge joint is accountable for movement and carrying the weight of your upper body.

It is a giant joint. Keeping it fit and healthy is imperative for walking the stairs up and down, sitting down and standing up without feeling any discomfort, and running and jumping comfortably. Injuries and illnesses related to the knee can restrict your range of motion and keep you from performing the activities mentioned above. It robs you from doing the physical activities that you enjoy the most, degrading your quality of life.

Common Causes of Knee Pain While Sleeping

Before we talk about how to relieve aching knees at night, let's discover some of its common causes. The following causes may answer the question "why do my knees hurt at night when I sleep?"

Daily Wear and Tear

Knee pain can affect anyone from small children and teenagers to adults and old-aged people. It's mainly linked to wear and tear occurring due to everyday physical activities. Whether you're a gym freak, weekend sports enthusiast, or someone whose occupation involves intense physical activities, make sure you pause periodically to observe your movements.

If done inappropriately, kneeling and lifting can also cause knee pain. There is no harm in staying active, but that doesn't mean you confuse being physically active with carrying out inappropriate physical activities. For example, if you follow a rigorous workout routine, make sure that the moves you have incorporated into your regime don't backfire. In other words, stick to only those exercises that do not put undue stress on your joints which may cause knee injuries.

Sprained Ligaments

An injured knee ligament can also cause knee pain; it can occur if you hurt your knee or it gets twisted either due to a high-impact activity or a blow to the knee joint. People with injured knee ligaments often complain about pain and swelling. It also causes discomfort while walking, thereby limiting their physical activities to sitting quietly on their couches. The knee joint consists of four ligaments:

  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  • Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  • And Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

Their primary function is to strengthen the knee.

Damaged Knee Cartilage

The knee cartilage is quite flexible; it acts as a pad between knee bones. However, daily wear and tear and severe blows to the knee joint can easily damage it. Since it acts as a shock absorber, once it gets hurt, the bones meeting at the knee joint start rubbing against one another, causing pain and discomfort.


Arthritis, an umbrella term for over 100 joint conditions impacting joint mobility by restricting flexibility, remains one of the most significant sources of knee pain. One of the primary causes of limited mobility, arthritis, affects a wide range of people globally. According to Arthritis Foundation, the U.S. reported nearly 54.4 million cases of doctor-diagnosed arthritis between 2013-2015. Out of this, 23.7 million people claimed that arthritis restricted their physical activity.

How to Treat Knee Pain

The first step to discovering why your knees hurt while sleeping is to figure out the primary source of your knee pain. And to do that, you should go for X-ray, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Computed tomography scan, and Arthroscopy. Once you've talked to your doctors and are well aware of the underlying cause of your knee pain, you can then decide what kind of treatment you want to seek.

If the problem is not that severe, you can opt for drug-free therapies such as physical therapy to experience holistic healing. The physical therapist in question will examine your condition and create a recovery plan accordingly. And based on your mobility, they will incorporate therapeutic moves that will increase flexibility and strengthen the knee joint.

They will spend considerable time guiding you on how to perform those therapeutic moves so that you don't hurt your knee further. You will experience extraordinary benefits from physical therapy, which will go beyond restoring your knee health. Suppose you have chronic knee pain occurring due to a condition like arthritis. In that case, they might include other pain-relieving techniques in your plan.

If your condition is too critical, you can incorporate physical therapy with other kinds of treatments, including surgical treatment. Adding physical therapy to your treatment plan will ensure quick and effective recovery. 

Ways of Treating Night Time Knee Pain

A persons feed in a bathtub

Take Steam/Hot Water Bath

If knee pain causes a lot of discomfort to you and makes it difficult to enjoy a good night's sleep, then take a steam bath or hot water bath for a minimum of 15-20 minutes. It will relax your muscles, soothe joints, and relieve your pain. The relaxation experienced while taking a bath will help you fall asleep fast.

A persons knee with a hot/cold wrap on it

Use an Ice Pack or Heating Pad

There is no denying that people worldwide have been using hot and cold therapy to relieve pain and reduce discomfort stemming from it. You can also do the same if your pain aggravates suddenly in the night. You can either massage your knee with an ice pack or place a heating pad on it for half an hour. After finishing this exercise, you will experience a world of difference in the magnitude of your pain. You can also order a joint wrap to manage your pain; they are highly effective.

Do Stretches for Knee Pain Relief

Perform a few stretching moves before going to bed. But make sure you don't overdo anything; otherwise, it will have the opposite impact on your knee. You can check out a few knee-strengthening moves on YouTube and then perform them precisely the same way.

A woman sitting on a couch with a leg wedge pillow propping her knee up

Sleep with an Elevated Leg for Knee Pain

Your sleep posture is vital to your physical well-being. The improper sleep position can make knee pain worse and lead to other injuries. The best sleeping position for knee pain is on your back, ideally with your leg elevated. Sleeping with your knees up using a leg wedge pillow can help improve blood flow, take pressure off the knee, and relieve knee pain when trying to sleep.

Another method of knee pain relief is to sleep on your side and put a pillow between your knees. Specially designed knee pillows can add a significant level of support.

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About the Author

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Samantha does not have a personal blog but writes on healthcare industry since a decade for now. She is excellent at conveying thoughts and tips through story telling.

About Carex Health Brands

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Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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