Hip injuries are the trickiest of common sleep injuries, because you will often feel pain in another part of your body. The lower back is most often the scapegoat. For instance, what you think is a lower back injury can turn out to be Piriformis Syndrome. A chiropractor can accurately determine if the cause of your pain is a hip injury from sleeping wrong.
Trochanteric Bursitis or Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS)
We’ve talked about the bursae padding our joints being those fluid filled sacs. The hip region has two major bursae: the trochanteric bursa and the ischial bursa.
The trochanteric bursa is on the outside of the hip. If you sleep on one side for most of the night, you can compress it, causing swelling and inflammation, or Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS.) You will wake up in the morning or in the night with pain and tenderness on the side of your hip, which may feel like a bad cramp. If the inflammation gets worse, any kind of walking or climbing motion will aggravate the bursa and cause more pain.
Often GTPS is confused with iliotibial band syndrome (ITB). The iliotibial band is a thick band of tissue that runs from the outside of the hip down to the knee. The hip muscles and the buttocks muscles attach to the band. Some patients confuse hip pain with ITB syndrome, but with ITB a patient will also experience knee pain.
The best way to prevent GTPS is to support your knees, if you sleep in the fetal position, by placing a small pillow or rolled up towel between them. Ice the area and take ibuprofen for two weeks, until the pain abates. If the pain is too great, you may need to try sleeping on your back for a little while. If none of this works, ask your doctor about cortisone injections to the area.
The piriformis muscle, as you can see from the picture, is deep in the hip. It helps your hips rotate outward. When it’s tight, it rubs against the sciatic nerve. The pain you feel is similar to sciatica, but sciatica is a result of an injury to a spinal disk. Piriformis Syndrome causes pain deep in the buttocks and down the sciatic nerve all the way to your foot. Just like sciatica, you may also experience tingling and weakness in your legs.
When you sleep on your back on an unsupportive mattress, your lower back flattens against the surface, causing your hips to fall open. The resulting pressure on your hips and back can cause the muscle to spasm, irritating the sciatic nerve.
Try shifting to your side, or, if you must sleep on your back, place a rolled up towel under your back and knees, supporting the natural curvature of your spine. More importantly, time to get a new mattress! Look for one that’s neither too hard nor too soft.
Chiropractic massage to the deep tissues around your hips is an excellent way to release the tension in the piriformis. At home, along with resting and icing, you can do these stretches:
Often we neglect our hips in favor of worrying about our backs or knees, but what we don’t realize is that if our bones are our body’s scaffolding, then our hips are like the foundation which supports it all. Be sure to stretch your hips before and after exercising to prevent injury, as well as support your hips with the proper mattress. Common sleep injuries, like hip injuries, can all be prevented by correcting your sleeping posture.