sleeping arrangement help for knee?
February 9, 2021 12:32 PM   Subscribe

my partner has a bad knee. increasingly he wakes up in pain from the knee (and other discomforts.) I want to solve this.

What I'm looking for here is responses from people who have had knee troubles, which required some sort of intervention with their sleeping arrangement.

We bought an excellent new mattress about two years ago. For a while we both felt better upon waking. But now, while I'm still fine, he increasingly wakes up in pain. Lying down is apparently worse than being upright. I bought him a special knee-positioning pillow for between his knees, for side sleeping; but he doesn't stay in one position at night so it's kind of worthless. He wakes up with other pain too, often; but the knee is the worst.

Do you have experience with any of the hospital-bed type arrangements where they raise your knees? What are they called? How can I assess those before purchasing one? If you've tried something like that, did it help?

(The knee is as fixed as it's gonna get in terms of surgery, PT etc.)
posted by fingersandtoes to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Depends on WHAT PART of the knee is the problem. If he needs to knee bent, put a small cushion below the knee may help, but depends on if he twists and turns while he sleeps.

I've also tried a wedge pillow for my leg (you can even choose different height versions) but I stopped using it after a week as it's not very comfortable for my hips. YMMV. :)

I sometimes wear a knee brace (with the semi-hard side ribs) for support, but that's during the day. But then, I also pop 3 Naproxen in the morning as a habit (for general aches and pains, and prevention of gout pain). So again, YMMV.
posted by kschang at 12:52 PM on February 9, 2021

This predates my knee injury by decades but became critical to getting any sleep while recovering from it: memory foam body pillow. (Trust me - the memory foam density is significantly more helpful than the lightweight batting in the regular ones.) Those little whosits that go between your knees are a stability nightmare unless you can stand having it strapped to your knee, and even then they're too thin for side-sleeping - which is all I do, so I can just roll over holding the pillow and I'm still well-positioned. This does assume your partner is average-ish height (under 6'3"ish) and can sleep with the knee bent.

Any sort of ramp or wedge under the knees will only work for exclusive back-sleepers. If you roll on your side the angle is going to bend the knee sideways, which makes my eyes water just to think about. Those things can also be hell on your back. It might be worth talking to a physical therapist to get a real recommendation, there are a couple of post-op/recovery positioners that might be candidates, but could also make things worse without real medical advice.

A real serious problem for me that I still don't know how to solve is that I roll over by pressing my heel into the mattress and pushing, which puts a horrible (and again somewhat sideways) tension on the knee. I did eventually hurt myself enough doing it that I trained myself most of the time to fling my upper body over shoulder-first/hips second/knees last, but it's still the last thing that's still causing me any noticeable pain anymore.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:07 PM on February 9, 2021

I'm somewhere between a side and stomach sleeper, and I definitely agree with the full length body pillow. My hips and knees ache when I don't have one. However, I can't imagine using a memory foam with how much I move and turn at night. I take the body pillow with me, so having all that weight would make every movement an ordeal. I actually had to switch away from a memory foam head pillow for the same reason.
posted by natabat at 1:26 PM on February 9, 2021

Best answer: On a different note: I'd recommend looking up and trying some knee taping methods at night using kinesiology tape. When I had an acute injury I was surprised by how helpful it was in letting me sleep through pain.

(If he has hairy knees, I really recommend shaving them before taping.)
posted by trig at 1:40 PM on February 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

+1 to the knee taping. And I hear you on the knee has maxed out on actual improvement from PT, but it might be worth consulting a PT specifically on how to make sleeping better despite the crap knee. Also, has he tried good CBD products for sleep? I just spent the most miserable year of my life trying to rehab a borked shoulder instead of surgery, then going through surgery and lengthy rehab from that, and CBD products (with a small amount of THC) were miraculous for helping me sleep.
posted by HotToddy at 2:46 PM on February 9, 2021

Response by poster: clarification: it's not that he can't sleep. It's that something about his positioning in the night makes him wake up in pain in the morning (with attendant poor mood.) Something is hurting him while he's lying down for hours. The longer he sleeps the worse it gets.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:51 PM on February 9, 2021

Then HotToddy's advice to consult with a good PT about sleeping positions might help. Sometimes pain in one area can be related to what's going on in other areas, so he'll want someone who doesn't only focus on the knee but will also pay attention to the whole body to understand why being prone causes more pain.
posted by trig at 1:04 AM on February 10, 2021

I do sympathize, as I have a bit of knee problem myself being overweight. The net result is my impossibility to sit still for long periods of time. I remember sitting down for 2.5 hours for an IMAX show (I think it was extra long, one of the Star Wars movies) and this was long before the modern recliner arrangements. About 90 minutes in my knee started locking up and stabbing pain shot up my knee. I can't straighten it because there's no room in front of me (against the wall) and standing up was not an option. I think I endured and had to pop extra pain pills and walked 10 minutes to get my knee working again.
posted by kschang at 8:03 AM on February 10, 2021

Sleep positioning can be a factor. Can he sleep in a reclining chair? If so an adjustable bed might be useful.
posted by Raybun at 12:43 PM on February 10, 2021

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