The exact mechanism is not known, but there's evidence that low levels of
neurotransmitters that are linked to sleep regulation and pain inhibition
may be associated with this.
Other possibilities are tissue hypoxia or low circulation, activated by prolonged immobility of over a few hours (such as sleep).
A combination of the above 2, cannot be excluded as a possibility, as well.
What is your exact diagnosis?
There may be a treatment available to alleviate the pain, but definitely
improving circulation, by exercise ( to an acceptable level of tolerance according to your condition), proper diet and general lifestyle modifications, will definitely help.
Please post again with comments or further questions.
I have the same problem with my right knee and recently had an x-ray which was found to be normal. My rheumatoligist said it was inflammation and to take anti-inflammatories and painkillers when needed. You can buy gels or creams which you could apply at night and this may give you a chance of some decent sleep.
If it only happens at night, another thing to consider is that the source *might* be your spine, your hip, or something else "up the lline", as it were. :) If a nerve is getting pinched when you're in the prone position, your knee area might hurt.
I know, it sounds weird! But I had this experience before I had my hips replaced. My sciatic nerve would get irritated, and the pain would start in the very low back, and seem to "skip" down to my knee area, which would just ache and ache.
You might try sleeping with your feet and knees propped up on pillows, or between your knees if you're a side sleeper. This will keep everything in alignment, especially on your side. Look at your mattress - is it old, or just not offering great support? You might think about shopping around for a new one.
Nico and Shelly offer great advice! Until the underlying problem is diagnosed and dealt with, a few "mechanical" fixes might help you sleep a little better at night.
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