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How To Avoid Knee Pain In Bed

Image of different mattress layers and depth
Woman Side sleeping

Knee pain at night can feel incredibly frustrating. As a chiropractor, I understand how much having knee pain at night can cause you to feel restless and lead to poor sleep. There are many causes and solutions to knee pain, and in this article, I will explain the role your mattress might play in causing or exacerbating pain in your knees.

As a general rule, a bad mattress could cause knee pain and joint pain. When you’re placing your body weight onto a mattress that doesn’t provide pressure relief for hours a night, this causes many problems, including pain in your knee joints. Additionally, if your mattress is too firm, excess pressure on areas like your shoulders, hips, knees, side, and back can lead to aches and pains. 

That being said, we should it is important to make a distinction between general joint pain from pressure build-up and Osteoarthritis. There is a strong relationship between Osteoarthritis and knee pain at night. The prevalence of night knee pain and sleep problems increased with the severity of Osteoarthritis(OS). This means that as OS severity increases, so do the problems associated with joint pain and sleeping. While improving your mattress and improving spinal alignment while sleeping is not a solution to Osteoarthritis, reducing pressure on the joints could reduce symptoms while also being a comfortable mattress for arthritis. Furthermore, sleep quality is associated with recovery, which is important for any condition or alignment.


Can a Bad Mattress Cause Joint Pain

A bad mattress can cause often cause joint or knee pain for many reasons. First, a bad mattress, according to research, can lead to back pain (or at least not help it).  Back pain is often a result of improper support, lack of pressure relief, and simply being uncomfortable, all of which are very common if you sleep on a poor-quality mattress.

Research shows that between 50 and 90 percent of people with chronic joint pain don’t sleep well. Additionally, sleep deprivation can lead to other health issues, including low energy, mood disorders, and eating problems.

If you have chronic pain in your hips, knees, or shoulders, there are things you can do to limit how much the discomfort affects your nighttime rest, says Michael Schaefer, MD, Director of Musculoskeletal Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic.

The same factors can also cause knee pain. For example, a lack of pressure relief causes strain to accumulate on your knees. This tension can slowly increase since you won’t notice it as you sleep. This causes you to develop significant knee pain before it becomes painful enough to cause you to wake up. This cycle can repeat itself throughout the night, which not only causes sore knees but also leads to restless nights. If you are not getting good sleep, you are not recovering, which can further exacerbate the condition.

Poor quality mattresses often don’t provide good support. Good support that comes from an orthopedic mattress and orthopedic pillows is vital for spinal alignment and when you sleep.


Why Your Knees Hurt While You Are In Bed

It is common to experience many forms of joint pain at night, especially knee pain. Typically if you are experiencing knee pain at night, it can be the result of your bed creating pressure points, poor sleeping alignment, and the wrong sleeping position.

Normal joint pain, especially in the hips, knees, and shoulders, frequently worsens at night. Your sleep position, spinal alignment, and the quality of your mattress are responsible for most of the pain, but in many cases, the fact that you are not moving throughout the night allows pressure to build up.

While not a cure for arthritis, if you want to avoid knee pain at night, you should make sure to get a good quality mattress and sleep with proper alignment. A good mattress will reduce pressure points which helps you avoid pressure points which helps make sure that you don’t get knee pain in the first place. The best two mattress types for pressure relief are memory foam and natural latex, as they both contour to the pressure of the body.

However, due to the off-gassing of VOC’s such as formaldehyde, which is possible(under sleep microclimate conditions) in some petroleum-based foam, including memory foam, I always recommend natural latex mattresses. Additionally, natural latex is also resilient, which means as force is applied to it, the foam pushes back, giving great support. When your mattress is resilient, spinal alignment is promoted, which is an important factor in reducing joint pain at night.


Sleeping On Your Side Can Cause Knee Pain.

Yes, it is common for people when they sleep on their sides. Often this pain is caused because one knee lying on top of the other knee. This places pressure on both of your knees which, over time, can cause pain. This is particularly common since as we sleep for around eight hours a night, this gives plenty of time for pressure on our knees to build up. This problem is typically worse for people who are less mobile as they typically don’t move around as much as and this again leads to more pressure build-up.

While knee pain can be caused by sleeping on your side, side sleeping is the best way to sleep. Luckily there is a simple way to avoid getting knee pain while sleeping on your side. If you place a pillow between your knees as you sleep, this has a cushioning effect while also distributing the pressure away from your joints and across a greater area of your knee. Additionally, placing a pillow between your knees aligns your hips and also your spine. When your hips and spine are in perfect alignment, you can avoid developing problems with other parts of your body as well.

Furthermore, good spinal alignment allows your muscles to relax while sleeping and promotes recovery. If you are recovering as you sleep, your body has a better chance to heal any possible problem from your joint pain and any other health condition.


Sleeping On Your Back Can Cause Knee Pain

Unfortunately, back sleeping can also lead to knee pain. The reason that back sleeping can often cause knee pain is because when you sleep facing up, your knees are often forced to overextend or lock up. When your knees are overextended, they become strained almost immediately. If your knee joint are in this position throughout the night, it is highly likely you will experience knee pain in the morning. 

As a chiropractor, I never recommend back sleeping, and I have even created a guide for people who want to switch from back sleeping to side sleeping. However, if you are going to sleep on your side and want to avoid knee pain, there is a simple trick that you can use. Similar to when you side sleep, place a pillow just below your knees. This prevents the joint from entering extension, which prevents tension and stress from building up in your knee through the night.

Furthermore, placing a pillow below your knees relaxes the hip muscles and allows your back to relax. Similar to how the pillow prevents the extension of your knee joints the pillow relaxes your hips and takes your low back out of extension.


How To Relieve Knee Pain Caused By Your Bed

If you want to reduce knee pain in bed, one of the best things you can do is invest in a high-quality mattress. A good mattress will be much better at reducing pressure points, promoting spinal alignment, and simply being more comfortable, all of which are vital factors if you want to prevent knee pain at night. As a chiropractor, I strongly recommend natural latex mattresses for joint pain as they provide excellent pressure relief as well as promote spinal alignment. It’s the type of mattresses I recommend to all of my patients and the one I use to make sure that I avoid joint pain for as long as I can.



There are many factors to consider to understand if you want to understand if your mattress is the cause of your knee pain at night. Before we can blame your mattress, you should consider possible pre-existing conditions such as OS. However, your mattress has a significant effect on both the quality of your sleep and pressure relief, which is vital for preventing and reducing knee pain. When you have a high-quality mattress, your shoulders, hips and spine will be better supported and maintain proper alignment throughout the night, which reduces strain on all your joints. As a chiropractor, I always recommend natural latex mattresses as they offer pressure-relieving qualities without the chemicals.


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Can an Orthopedic Mattress Actually Cause Back Pain?

Firm Mattress Myth: Should Orthopedic Mattresses Really be Hard?

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About Dr Lawrence Woods

My goal is to create the highest quality mattresses and pillows for unmatched comfort.

With 30 years of spinal healthcare experience in Ireland as a chiropractor, I learned the value of high quality sleep for living a happy and healthy life.

I have a Chiropractic Degree from Life Chiropractic College West and I am NBCE Physiotherapy certified.


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