Why do my joints ache at night?
October 6, 2010 7:45 PM   Subscribe

Every evening, a couple of hours before I usually go to bed, the joints in my feet, legs, and knuckles seem to stiffen up and need to be stretched and cracked constantly. What's going on, and how do I prevent it?

Is this due to fatigue from the day, and just means that I should just go to sleep? It happens when I'm really starting to wind down and getting sleepy.

Or, is this because I haven't been exercising, and my body is sore from inactivity?

In an ideal world I could stay up until I need to go to bed without having to stretch out and crack my toes, ankles, and knuckles every 3 minutes.

I'm sure this is a pretty common ailment and has been asked many times before, but I have an inherent distrust of googling for health-related advice. All I can find is stuff related to menopause, and I'm pretty sure that's not me, being a mid-20's male and all.
posted by Think_Long to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wait, the joints themselves, or your leg/foot/hand muscles? I'm not clear what exactly is happening here.
posted by facetious at 7:54 PM on October 6, 2010

Response by poster: The joints mostly, not the muscles. It's not a severe ache or anything, it's just annoying.
posted by Think_Long at 7:56 PM on October 6, 2010

I reckon it's psycho-somatic. There is no physiological difference between a couple of hours before bed, and three or four hours before bed, unless you have dinner on a stagecoach or something.

The difference is that you are inactive and un-distracted as you go to bed, and you are thinking about sleep and worried about cracking. It has now become "a thing".
posted by smoke at 8:08 PM on October 6, 2010

Totally disagree with Smoke. I also don't believe in any psychosomatic anything. Pain and discomfort are real. In this case, it's discomfort. I'm a nurse and I've yet to see a patient who had anything that wasn't real. Fluffed up, perhaps, but real. Unless they were lying, but that's another matter.

I think you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned inactivity. If you're... say... sitting at the computer for a length of time without stretching, you'll find your joints will need to pop at times.

The best thing to do is to stretch and move every now and then and get some sort of exercise. Even walking 20 minutes three times per week will help.
posted by magnoliasouth at 8:34 PM on October 6, 2010

I have this too and I agree with the inactivity explanation. I crack my knuckles several times a day and the best one is when I'm in bed before I fall asleep, because I've been inactive for a while so I have a lot of cracking to do!
posted by alon at 9:07 PM on October 6, 2010

For a nurse, you should know what psychosomatic means:

Of or relating to a disorder having physical symptoms but originating from mental or emotional causes.

I was not trying to trivialise the poster's pain and discomfort, nor deny its existence, nor judge their problem as invalid or trivial etc. Rather, I'm just trying to highlight that an effective cure may reside from a change of habit or mind-frame when thinking about going to bed, not quaffing some ibuprofen etc.
posted by smoke at 9:08 PM on October 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

If in fact you have been fairly consistent in avoiding exercise, this could just be your body telling you that you're no longer a teenager and that it's time to start paying attention to what those boring old farts around you have been saying for years and years :-)

Regular, moderate exercise is good for you.
posted by flabdablet at 9:33 PM on October 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Seconding smoke. Psychosomatic is real.
posted by gjc at 4:57 AM on October 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I have something similar, but more about muscle than joint aches, and suspect it's probably from sedentary days. It seems to me like a simple test would be to make a point to get some exercise during the day, which might or might not help with my evening achiness but certainly would be good for me anyway.

That said, back when I was pregnant for the first time, I noticed that for the first time in my life, if I was tired and needed to sleep but wasn't sleeping, it actually hurt. It felt not quite like pain but like this discomfort in all my muscles and joints. Now, 10 years later, I get this even though I'm not pregnant (but I am middle-aged now). I have wondered but not taken any effort to find out whether it has to do with substances in the body that build up with fatigue (like lactic acid for people doing extended exercise). A friend I mentioned this to back when I was pregnant said she has a similar experience of being tired leading to physical pain from her fibromyalgia.
posted by not that girl at 7:20 AM on October 7, 2010

Response by poster: It felt not quite like pain but like this discomfort in all my muscles and joints.

This is how I'd describe it. I guess it's yet another reason to get out and start exercising again. Thanks for the guilt trip, stupid body.
posted by Think_Long at 8:06 AM on October 7, 2010

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