Skip to main contentSkip to accessibility services
7 min read
No Ads

Severe Upper Leg Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Tooltip Icon.
Last updated August 27, 2020

Severe upper leg pain questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Severe leg pain located around the thigh can be caused by trauma from a femoral break or muscle strain. A deep, shooting pain in the upper leg can also be caused by deep vein thrombosis, spinal stenosis, or a thigh bone infection. Read on for more information on causes and treatment options.

Severe upper leg pain questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Severe upper leg pain symptom checker

10 causes of severe upper leg pain

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Femoral stress fracture

Femoral stress fracture means there is a break in the femur, or thighbone. The femur is the largest and strongest bone in the body and is important for bearing weight. A femoral stress fracture usually occurs in the top of the bone where it connects to the pelvis.

Stress fractures happen from overuse and/or from weakness in the bone from disease, rather than from trauma. Those in heavy physical training, such as athletes and military trainees, are vulnerable to femoral stress fracture. But anyone suffering from malnutrition or osteoporosis is vulnerable to a stress fracture, even with ordinary activities of daily living.

Symptoms include pain deep in the thigh or groin, especially during exercise. The pain may have started gradually instead of being sudden, as with a traumatic injury. The condition might be thought to be a simple strain.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination, with simple tests such as hopping on the painful leg, and imaging.

Treatment involves rest; improved nutrition; study of proper training and striding techniques; and sometimes surgery.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dull, achy hip pain, pain in one thigh, thigh pain, spontaneous hip pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Deep vein thrombosis

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a vein deep in the body. Most deep vein clots occur in the lower leg or thigh.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fever, thigh pain, upper leg swelling, calf pain, butt pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Spinal stenosis

The spine, or backbone, protects the spinal cord and allows people to stand and bend. Spinal stenosis causes narrowing in the spine. The narrowing puts pressure on nerves and the spinal cord and can cause pain.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that shoots to the butt, difficulty walking, thigh pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Thigh bone infection (osteomyelitis)

Osteomyelitis of the thigh is a bacterial or fungal infection of the thigh bone, typically caused by Staph Aureus (40-50% of the time). It is difficult to diagnose as the infection can come from a break in the skin at the area or anywhere else in the body that spreads by blood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: moderate fever, constant upper leg pain, spontaneous thigh pain, painful surgical site, warm red upper leg swelling

Symptoms that always occur with thigh bone infection (osteomyelitis): spontaneous thigh pain, constant upper leg pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Severe upper leg pain questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Severe upper leg pain symptom checker

Patellofemoral pain syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) is also called runner's knee, jumper's knee, anterior knee pain, chondromalacia patella, and patellofemoral joint syndrome.

Overuse through training for sports is a common cause, especially if there is a misalignment in the knee joint or a previous knee injury. This wears away the cartilage beneath the kneecap and causes pain on exercising.

It is most common in females and in young adults who are active in sports, but can affect anyone.

Symptoms include dull pain at the front of the knee and around the kneecap (patella) while running, squatting, or climbing stairs, or after prolonged sitting with knees bent.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and through x-rays, CT scan, and/or MRI.

Treatment most often involves rest; over-the-counter pain relievers; low-impact exercise such as swimming or bicycling; physical therapy to strengthen and stabilize the knee; and orthotics (shoe inserts) to help correct a misaligned stride.

Surgery is needed only for severe cases, and is done through arthroscopy to remove any fragments of damaged cartilage.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: knee pain, pain in one knee, knee pain that gets worse when going up stairs, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when squatting

Symptoms that always occur with patellofemoral pain syndrome: knee pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Compartment syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome describes the damage done to certain muscle groups of the arms or legs after a traumatic injury.

All of the long muscles are bundled into sections – "compartments" – by the white sheets of strong, tough connective tissue called fascia. If something interferes with circulation so that blood flow is trapped within the compartment, pressure rises because the fascia cannot stretch. This causes serious damage to the muscles and other tissues within the compartment.

Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a broken bone; a crush injury; burns, due to scarred and tightened skin; and bandages or casts applied before an injury has stopped swelling.

Symptoms can rapidly intensify. They include severe pain and tightness in the muscle; tingling or burning sensation; and sometimes numbness and weakness.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency which can result in loss of the limb. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination.

Treatment involves hospitalization for emergency surgery and, in some cases, skin graft.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Repetitive strain injury of the quadriceps

Repetitive strain injury of the upper leg is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: upper leg numbness, thigh weakness, thigh pain from overuse

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the quadriceps: thigh pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the quadriceps: upper leg injury, severe upper leg pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Repetitive strain injury of the hamstring

Repetitive strain injury of the upper leg is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: upper leg numbness, thigh weakness, hamstring pain from overuse

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the hamstring: hamstring pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the hamstring: upper leg injury, severe upper leg pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Mild/moderate hip arthritis

Arthritis of the hip is inflammation of one or more of the joints in the hip. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Hip arthritis can make it hard to do many everyday activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. It is a major cause of lost work time and a serious disability for many people.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: hip pain, difficulty walking, pain in one hip, limping, groin pain

Symptoms that always occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis: hip pain

Symptoms that never occur with mild/moderate hip arthritis: severe hip pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Severe upper leg pain questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your pain.

Severe upper leg pain symptom checker

Iliotibial (it) band syndrome ('runner's knee')

Iliotibial band syndrome is also called ITBS or IT syndrome. The iliotibial band is a long, thick piece of connective tissue that begins at the top of the hip bone, runs down the outside of the leg, and attaches at the side of the knee.

ITBS is an overuse syndrome. Athletes in heavy training are susceptible to it, especially runners and cyclists. Pain and inflammation result if the far end of the iliotibial band constantly rubs against the outside of the knee joint.

Symptoms include pain on the outside of the knee, especially while running or while sitting with the knee flexed.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination, with simple stretching tests to identify the exact location of the pain. An MRI is sometimes ordered.

Treatment involves rest; ice; over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; stretching exercises for the iliotibial band; strengthening of the upper leg muscles; and, if needed, changes in the way the person strides or trains. Corticosteroid injections can be helpful and surgery may be tried in some cases.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: knee pain, pain in one knee, dull, achy knee pain, knee pain that gets worse when going down stairs, sharp knee pain

Symptoms that always occur with iliotibial (it) band syndrome ('runner's knee'): knee pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Questions your doctor may ask about severe upper leg pain

  • Do your symptoms get worse when you exercise?
  • Where is your upper leg pain located?
  • Do you run for exercise or sport?
  • What is your body mass?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Severe upper leg pain symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced severe upper leg pain have also experienced:

  • 12% Lower Back Pain
  • 4% Lower Leg Pain
  • 3% Deep, Throbbing Hip Pain

People who have experienced severe upper leg pain were most often matched with:

  • 46% Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • 30% Femoral Stress Fracture
  • 23% Spinal Stenosis

People who have experienced severe upper leg pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 32% Over a month
  • 26% Less than a week
  • 22% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

Hear what 3 others are saying
Severe leg painPosted July 1, 2021 by L.
I've been suffering with this awhile, it's been real bad then a little better and now it's worse. I have swelling in both ankles and tops of my feet. It's so bad up my right leg it looks and feels like it may burst. Then are two bands 2" or 3" that stand higher up my leg, it looks like circular bands and they are very hard... then, when it's at my knee, the pain is severe. I believe swelling goes all the way up my thigh. The pain may as well go up the inside toward my groin... This is mild or moderate. I was diagnosed yrs ago with terminal chronic pain. I know how to deal with a lot of it and ppl won't ever know when it hurts so bad. I'm nauseous and shaking inside... I can't speak or breathe and it's more than I can take. I call that severe... I fell a few months back, and I think I either have a clot in the artery behind my knee or a neucrosis from the fall... That's how severe this pain is... Anyone know what it is or what to do?
Leg painPosted March 28, 2021 by D.
About 2 months ago my left knee started having severe pain, appeared swollen. I am not understanding why. I had many falls in the past, but nothing recently. The pain radiated to my groin and hip, this lasting a few weeks. I started thinking DVT. An area of pain always cool to touch. Later the pain went to my foot. Sitting hurts back of legs and butt. I found myself in bed a lot. For a few days, I was unable to find a comfortable position. I wound up standing. I lost 2 nights of sleep from pain. Unable to stand without something or someone to help me up. Same with bathroom. To sit, held seat with one hand and table on side with other. The stiffness in leg making it very painful to bend. My arms do most of the work. I do have arthritis throughout body. I am 66 and have always been active non-stop from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. Not sure what test the Dr. will order on my next visit. Truly scared of what's causing my problems, but doesn't seem to be getting better. I walk with a limp as, after standing, it takes me a while to straighten up. Also have pain on sunny, nice weather days, not as bad however on rainy days.
First-time potential medical issue diagnosis websitePosted January 9, 2021 by J.
I'm typically the kind of guy that uses the " suck it up ..it'll go away and be fine" medical approach. That system lasted 53 years - 7 months - 8 days and 12 hours exactly. Today, as I felt an extremely serious pain on the front top muscle of my right leg only, I knew something was wrong. I'd never had this kind of "non instigated” issue that caused this much pain. The first attack put me on the floor it hurt so bad and my right leg had given out completely and I sat, laid, rolled around on the floor for a good 15 minutes (with all 3 Shitzus and 3 cats surrounding me as If they are on day 42 of food strike and I was the closest thing to meat) until the pain was gone from my leg so I could stand up but my lower back still had me hunched over. The third time caused the same amount of pain on my right leg but seemingly out of nowhere my lower back started to hurt so bad the pain forced me into a fetal position on the floor once again. Once the leg pain diminished I could only stand somewhat hunched over and the lower back pain hasn’t gone away as of yet. I laid down on my couch and tried to ZEN myself out. It had ruined my day by delaying some projects I had planned. At bedtime (5 hours after the last attack), brushing my teeth, I got that very same pain in the muscle on the front top of my leg again along with an increase in lower back pain. The leg pain subsided, yet my back still hurt. I Google searched "Severe dull pain in the top front leg muscle of my right leg only" and Google took me to Buoy. Followed the easy instructions and filled out my info. The program proceeded to create new questions based upon my last answer. The AI bot listed off the 3 or 4 top diagnosis results generated off the answers. The severity ranged from a crack in a bone, overworking that specific muscle, lastly was the potential for a blood clot in my lungs. Being a smoker and how I've generally let any commitment to health and wellness take a back seat. The range of potential causes are very specific and easy to eliminate until there is only one option available and the AI Bot generates options from bedrest with a visit to my general practitioner for a cracked bone to Emergency at the Hospital ASAP to avoid a possible stroke. I've had the suggestion for almost 2 hours and this stubborn …"I'll be alight" mentality I grew up with and around may just be the death of me yet. This battle of "commonsense" VS "Medically programmed AI," which laid out one option: "SEEK EMERGENCY ATTENTION NOW." Better put on the mask, grab some gum and a big bottle of water…. Going to be a long long night.

Was this article helpful?

12 people found this helpful
Tooltip Icon.