Read below about thigh pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your thigh pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having thigh pain

Thigh Pain Quiz

Thigh Pain Symptoms

You used to enjoy taking your dog for jogs around the neighborhood, but recently there's been a nagging crampy pain in your thighs that gets worse when you walk or run. Thigh pain symptoms can develop acutely or can be a chronic problem that worsens over time, and they can occur in different parts of the thigh, like the front, back, or side. Thigh pain can have a variety of causes ranging from acute injury to an underlying medical condition. No matter what the cause, it can be irritating and interfere with the ability to do activities that were previously enjoyed.

Associated thigh pain symptoms include:

  • Pain that worsens with activity
  • Pain that starts in the back and shoots down the thigh
  • An urge to move the leg
  • Stiffness
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Cramping

Thigh Pain Causes Overview

Thigh pain symptoms can have a variety of causes. There may be joint or muscle damage; problems with blood flow; nerve injuries; or underlying medical conditions.

Musculoskeletal thigh pain causes:

  • Muscular: A strain or complete tear of one of the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh can lead to pain and decreased strength.
  • Hip joint: Abnormalities in the hip are often experienced as thigh pain symptoms. Hip problems that can cause referred pain to the thigh include damaged cartilage, fracture or destruction of the bone, and infections of the hip joint.

Blood flow problems:

  • Decreased blood supply: Partial blockage of one or more arteries can cause decreased blood flow to the legs, resulting in pain due to lack of oxygen delivery to the cells. The pain will be particularly severe when walking or otherwise exercising the legs.
  • Blood Clot: Complete blockage of a vein due to clotting is more common in the calf but can also occur in the thigh. In this case there will be swelling in addition to pain.

Nerve injury:

  • Nerves in the back: A structural abnormality in the back, such as an enlargement of one of the discs in the spine, can cause nerve pain that radiates down the leg into the thigh.
  • Nerves in the thigh: Surgery or tight clothing can cause an injury to one of the nerves that travels down the thigh, resulting in pain, numbness, and tingling.

Underlying medical conditions:

  • Restless leg syndrome: A condition where leg pain occurs only at night or other times of rest and is accompanied by an urge to move the legs.
  • Cramps: Involuntary and painful leg cramping, which may occur only at night, can affect the thighs.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Thigh Pain

Updated on Aug. 29, 2018

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced thigh pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Femoral Stress Fracture

    A femoral stress fracture is a small crack in the thigh bone (femur). These fractures are most often a result of overuse and are commonly seen with an increase in activity. Stress fractures of the thigh bone are much less common than those of the shin bone (tibia), but nonetheless do occur in high-risk groups such as athletes and military recruits.

    12 weeks is the usual duration of treatment. Stress fractures usually heal on their own.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    dull, achy hip pain, pain in one thigh, thigh pain, spontaneous hip pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.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.

    Curable with medication or surgery but may recur.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fever, thigh pain, upper leg swelling, calf pain, butt pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  3. 3.Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

    Greater trochanteric pain syndrome is a common cause of hip pain caused by damage to the tendons and/or bursa (fluid-filled sac near a joint) at the outside point of the hip known as the greater trochanter.

    Weeks to years

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, pain in the outside of the hip, moderate hip pain, groin pain, limping
    Symptoms that always occur with greater trochanteric pain syndrome:
    pain in the outside of the hip
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

    The kneecap (patella) is located directly in front of the thigh bone (femur), and should normally glide freely up and down. In this condition, called patellofemoral pain syndrome, the kneecap may rub against the thigh bone instead of gliding smoothly, causing damage and pain.

    Most people get better within weeks to months of physical therapy.

    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
  5. 5.Thigh Nerve Issue (Meralgia Paresthetica)

    Meralgia paresthetica is a nerve condition that causes an area of skin over the upper outer thigh to feel numb, tingly, or painful. This is caused by compression of a nerve known as the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh as it passes underneath a tough fibrous ligament known as the inguinal ligament.

    Pain and pins-and-needles feeling resolves with time. Sometimes numbness and altered sensation remains for life.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in the outside of the hip, pain in one thigh, thigh numbness, tingling upper leg, hip numbness
    Symptoms that never occur with thigh nerve issue (meralgia paresthetica):
    new headache, swollen hip, swollen hips, swelling of one hip, leg swelling, weakness of both legs, leg weakness, leaking urine
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Thigh Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having thigh pain.

    Thigh Pain Quiz
  6. 6.Compartment Syndrome

    Compartment syndrome is a serious condition that involves increased pressure in a muscle compartment. It can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow.

    Prognosis is highly variable after surgery and depends on how rapidly you are treated.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.Repetitive Strain Injury of the Quadriceps

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

    Resolves with rest

    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
  8. 8.Pulmonary Embolism

    A pulmonary embolism is a sudden blockage in an artery in the lungs. It is a serious condition that can cause permanent damage to the affected lung, low oxygen levels in your blood, or damage to other organs in your body from not getting enough oxygen.

    A pulmonary embolism is life-threatening. Recovery depends on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    shortness of breath, cough, rib pain that gets worse when breathing, coughing, sneezing, or laughing, fever, wheezing
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  9. 9.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.

    Indefinite

    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
  10. 10.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.

    Improvement during a 6-week treatment with antibiotics

    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

Thigh Pain Treatments and Relief

In most cases, thigh pain symptoms do not need to be urgently evaluated. However, there are a few thigh pain causes that can lead to serious complications.

Seek emergency treatment if:

  • You are experiencing leg weakness , loss of control over urination or defecation, and/or numbness in your groin area. This may indicate a serious problem with your spinal cord.
  • You are unable to bear weight on the affected leg(s).
  • Your pain started suddenly and is associated with a fever.
  • Your pain is associated with new onset of swelling.

In some cases, even though emergency treatment isn't necessary, you should seek medical evaluation and treatment for your thigh pain symptoms. You may undergo a physical exam, imaging, and/or blood tests that will help diagnose the cause and guide treatment.

Make an appointment with your medical provider if:

  • You have chronic thigh pain that has become more severe over time.
  • The pain is accompanied by numbness and/or tingling.
  • The pain is particularly bad at night.
  • You were previously diagnosed with a chronic medical condition like liver or kidney disease.

Some home treatments may help with your thigh pain symptoms:

  • Heating or ice packs will improve many causes of thigh pain.
  • If the pain started after an acute injury, try RICE treatment. This means Resting and Icing the muscle, as well as applying Compression (such as with an ace bandage) and Elevating the leg to prevent swelling.
  • Ibuprofen or Tylenol can help, particularly if the pain started after an injury. Do not take the medication for more than a week without seeing a medical provider.
  • If the pain is worst at night, avoid substances like caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. Improving your sleep habits, such as by going to sleep at the same time every night and making sure the room is dark, may also help.
  • Drinking plenty of water may help relieve crampy thigh pain.

FAQs About Thigh Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about thigh pain.

Why do I have a burning sensation in my upper thigh?

A burning sensation in the upper thigh may be caused by a condition called meralgia paresthetica. In this condition, damage to a nerve that travels down the thigh (lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) causes burning, tingling, and numbness in the front and outer thigh. The nerve damage may occur due to tight clothing, prior surgery, or pregnancy, certain repetitive excercise, or it may occur without a clear cause.

What causes upper thigh pain when walking?

Upper thigh pain when walking may be caused by peripheral arterial disease, in which one or more arteries are partly blocked. Increased blood flow is required to supply your muscles when you are walking. If the arteries are partially blocked and there is not enough blood flow, the insufficient oxygen supply to the muscles can cause crampy thigh pain. Upper thigh pain when walking could also be caused by a narrowing of the spinal cord, called spinal stenosis.

Why do I have thigh pain at night?

Thigh pain at night may be caused by a condition called nocturnal leg cramps. Involuntary cramping of the legs can cause severe pain and difficulty sleeping. The calf muscles are usually involved, but the cramps can occur in the thigh as well. Nocturnal leg cramps can occur with no specific cause, but they can also be a complication of an underlying medical condition such as liver disease.

Can sciatica hurt in the front of the thigh?

Yes, sciatica can cause pain in the front of the thigh. Sciatica refers to the compression of a nerve as it exits the spinal cord, resulting in pain that may radiate from the back down the thigh. Depending on the specific nerve that is compressed, the pain can be located in the front, side, or back of the thigh.

Why do my legs ache when I lay down?

Aching in the legs when lying down may be caused by restless legs syndrome. This condition is characterized by leg discomfort and the urge to move the legs when lying down at night. Leg achiness when lying down could also be caused by insufficient blood flow to the legs due to partial artery blockage (peripheral arterial disease). This may be the cause if dangling your legs over the edge of the bed relieves your discomfort.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Thigh Pain

  • Q.Do you run for exercise or sport?
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Do your symptoms get worse when you exercise?
  • Q.Do you have any idea what may have caused your thigh pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our thigh pain symptom checker to find out more.

Thigh Pain Quiz

Thigh Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced thigh pain have also experienced:

    • 15% Lower Back Pain
    • 7% Hip Pain
    • 3% Knee Pain
  • People who have experienced thigh pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 32% Over a Month
    • 26% Less Than a Week
    • 22% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced thigh pain were most often matched with:

    • 46% Deep Vein Thrombosis
    • 30% Femoral Stress Fracture
    • 23% Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having thigh pain

Thigh Pain Quiz