My Hips Hurt When I Sleep
As we age, our risk of falling increases dramatically, but it’s not just because our bones become weaker. It turns out that an aging person is more likely to fall when their muscles lose strength faster than their bone loss does. Muscles have an important job — keeping us up, moving us around and helping us maintain balance. Without them, we’d be unable to walk, speak or do much else without assistance. But while strong muscles are essential for good health, they can also cause problems like falls and broken bones.
The most common muscle-related injury in older people is a fractured hip. Hip fractures occur mostly among women over age 65, who often suffer from osteoporosis. Because there’s less cartilage supporting the weight of the upper body when walking upright, the bones above the knee press down harder on the legs’ lower vertebrae as well as on the pelvis. The result is increased stress on the femur (the long leg of the femur) and the acetabulum (a cup-shaped socket at the end of the thighbone). This combination leads to a fracture, often one caused by a simple slip. Women with weak inner thighs, poor flexibility or tight hamstring tendons are especially susceptible [sources: Mayo Clinic; Healthline].
Another type of musculoskeletal problem that affects many adults is a painful condition called iliotibial band friction syndrome (ITBS), which occurs along the outer edge of the thigh where two large muscles meet. Like a runner’s shin splints, ITBS causes sharp pains near the knee when running or using stairs. People suffering from this ailment typically hold their bodies in positions that exaggerate these symptoms. Painful sitting postures include slouching forward, hunching the shoulders, bending over and sitting cross-legged. These movements all increase the tension on the ITB, which runs alongside the outside of the thigh bone. In some cases, doctors recommend stretching exercises to relieve pain. Other times, the best treatment involves surgery to cut away part of the troublesome muscle so that it no longer rubs against the sensitive area of the knee.
Pain along other parts of the body can also make its way into our dreams. A stiff neck can wake us up during REM cycles, and a sore shoulder can disrupt sleep. One solution to such nagging aches and pains is massage therapy. However, according to research published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, only about half of Americans use some form of complementary medicine, including chiropractic care, acupuncture or meditation. If you prefer something gentler, try taking ibuprofen before bedtime to get relief from headaches, backaches and other conditions that cause discomfort.
If you’ve got a chronic issue that won’t go away, consult your doctor. You might want to consider trying something like yoga, tai chi or Qi Gong to improve your overall sense of wellness. Not only will regular exercise help strengthen your muscles, it’ll boost circulation throughout the body. And it isn’t just physical activity that helps reduce the likelihood of falling.
Sleeping Positions That Cause Back Pain
Sleep disorders can lead to serious medical issues. For example, obstructive sleep apnea, a common disorder characterized by interrupted breathing while asleep, has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and hypertension. Less known is that it can also lead to low back pain. A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that patients who snored were twice as likely to suffer from low back pain compared to those who didn’t [sources: Bousselis et al.; Kondoh et al.] Snoring itself can aggravate the spine, causing microtrauma to intervertebral discs and increasing pressure on the spinal cord.
Other sleeping positions can also bring on back pain. Sleeping on the stomach puts extra strain on the lumbar disc, and lying on the back makes it difficult to turn over in bed. Lying on your side keeps the weight off the lumbar discs, and rolling onto your back relieves the pressure on the spine.
Back pain is also related to standing desks. Sitting in front of a computer screen for hours can change the shape of the pelvis, putting unnecessary strain on the lower back. By switching to a laptop stand, you can avoid straining your back, and you’ll probably work smarter, too.
I used to think my bad posture was due to laziness, but now I know better. As I approach retirement, I’m determined to take better care of myself. My new goal is to live healthier and happier. Although I don’t expect to look 20 years younger overnight, I hope to feel more energized and alive. After all, what’s life without living?
American Association of Retired Persons. “Living Longer: New Data Show How Living Well Can Increase Life Expectancy.” http://www.aarp.org/health/fitness-exercise/info-2010/news-release-archive/2010/september.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Falls Among Older Adults — United States Trends 2000 through 2006.” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 57(SS-5): 1–9, 2008.
Kondoh R, Fujimaki M, Nakano Y, et al. “Snoring Is Associated With Low Backache: Evidence From a Cross-sectional Survey Study.” International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders 28(10): 1098–103, 2004.
National Institutes of Health. “NIH Publishes First Guidelines On Chronic Lower Back Pain.” http://www.nih.gov/newsroom/prnewswire.htm?src=modal&id=155988
Woolson AJ. “Why We Sleep.” Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/why-we-sleep
Yoga. “Which Yoga Position Should I Do?” http://www.yogajournal.com/blog/which-yoga-position-should-i-do
Yu F, Wang XJ, Chang JL, Chien C, Chen YC. “Tai Chi and Qigong Improve Balance Function and Reduce Fall Risk in Community Dwellers.” Complementary Therapies in Medicine 14(3): 187–92, 2002.
Back Pain Relief Tips
It seems that every time you pick up a newspaper, magazine or watch television, someone is hawking a product designed to alleviate back pain. Some products even claim to cure it outright. While back pain relief remedies may provide temporary relief, they usually don’t address the underlying problem. To find permanent relief, see your physician for a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Exercises and stretches are helpful for temporarily reducing pain associated with certain types of back injuries, but they aren’t going to fix anything permanently wrong with your back. Your physician needs to figure out why your back hurts before coming up with any solutions.
Once you receive a diagnosis, start working toward regaining your mobility. There are several things you can do to prevent further damage to your back, including:
Take it easy when lifting objects. Don’t bend over to pick something heavy up off the ground unless absolutely necessary. Instead, ask someone to lift it for you.
When carrying groceries or packages, place them on a table or countertop rather than holding them with both hands.
Always wear shoes that fit properly. Wearing high heels or sandals can force you to stand improperly, leading to back pain.
Avoid repetitive motions. Typewriters, computers and video display terminals are particularly harmful.
Some experts believe that back pain can actually help us focus. Our minds concentrate more easily on tasks when our backs are straight and relaxed. So sit up straight in your chair.
Try alternating periods of rest and movement, rather than doing strenuous activities and then immediately following those activities lie down. This allows your muscles to relax.
Many physicians advise against using heat pads and heating pads to treat back pain. Using heat can cause burns to delicate skin layers, making it risky to lay directly under a hot pad. Also, the heat can numb tender areas, preventing effective communication between your brain and muscles.
Relaxation techniques, such as biofeedback training, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis, have shown promise in treating back pain.
To learn more about back pain relief options, visit the links on the next page.
Stretching can help loosen tight muscles that contribute to lower back pain. Before stretching, warm up by exercising lightly for five minutes. Then stretch slowly and deeply for 15 to 30 seconds. Hold each stretch position for three breaths. Repeat the sequence four to seven times. Never bounce while stretching.
For more information on back pain relief and prevention, check out the resources listed on the next page.
One of the easiest ways to treat lower back pain is to buy a foam roller, which is basically a firm cylinder filled with air bubbles. Roll your back gently over the surface of the roller, focusing on the affected area.
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