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Learn about your 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.

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Your Thigh Pain May Also be Known as:
Aches and pains in quad
Aches and pains in quadricep
Aches and pains in thigh
He hurt his quad
He hurt his quadricep
He hurt his thigh
Hip surgery
Hurt her quad
Hurt her quadricep
Hurt her thigh

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.

Top 9 Thigh Pain Causes

  1. 1.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician. While you can safely take steps to treat this condition at home (avoiding strenuous use of the knee and taking over-the-counter pain medication), your doctor may coordinate care with a physical therapist to help manage your pain and function of the knee.

    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
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician. He/She will suggest treatments which include medications, physical therapy, braces, and surgery.

    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that shoots to the butt, difficulty walking, back pain that gets worse when straightening it
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Iliopsoas Bursitis

    Bursae are small fluid-filled sacks located around the body in strategic locations to provide a cushion and help reduce friction. Iliopsoas bursitis, or hip bursitis, is an inflammation of the hip bursa, causing pain at the point of the hip. The pain may extend to the outside of the thigh area.

    You should visit your primary care physician. Treatment for this condition usually involves avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms, over-the-counter pain medication, physical therapy, and steroid injections. Surgery is rarely needed.

    Top Symptoms:
    groin pain, thigh pain, limping, snapping or clicking sensation of the hip, hip pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with iliopsoas bursitis:
    fever, back pain, butt pain from an injury, pain in both hips, unmovable hip lump, hard hip lump, back pain that shoots down the leg
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Blood Clot Requiring an Ultrasound

    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.

    Go to the emergency room immediately.

    Top Symptoms:
    fever, thigh pain, calf pain, upper leg swelling, painful swelling in the lower leg
    Hospital emergency room

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  5. 5.Femoral Shaft Fracture

    A femoral shaft fracture is a break anywhere along the long, straight part of the femur (thighbone) known as the shaft. Since the femur is the longest, strongest bone in the body, it is fairly difficult to break it (car crashes account for the most femur fractures).

    You are likely feeling extreme, severe pain in the impacted leg and should go directly to the emergency room via ambulance. From that point, your doctor will determine how to proceed (usually, surgery is needed followed by a long recovery period).

    Top Symptoms:
    abnormally high heartrate, constant upper leg pain, thigh pain, severe thigh pain, swollen thigh
    Symptoms that always occur with femoral shaft fracture:
    inability to bear weight immediately after injury, thigh pain, severe thigh pain, pain when touching the thigh, swollen thigh, constant upper leg pain
    Emergency medical service
  6. 6.Hip Dislocation

    A slipped capital femoral epiphysis is a separation of the ball of the hip joint from the thigh bone (femur) at the upper growing end (growth plate) of the bone.

    You should seek immediate medical care at an urgent care clinic or ER. A doctor will confirm the diagnosis with X-Ray or CT imaging, and if confirmed, you will be admitted to the hospital to have complete bed rest. Surgery is usually advised to stabilize the slipped bone and prevent it from moving further.

    Top Symptoms:
    hip pain, moderate hip pain, limping, dull, achy hip pain, thigh pain
    Symptoms that always occur with hip dislocation:
    hip pain
    Hospital emergency room
  7. 7.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.

    You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options. Generally, this condition is treated with rest, physical therapy, pain medication, and occasionally corticosteroid injections.

    Top Symptoms:
    hip pain, pain in one thigh, pain in one hip, pain in the outside of the hip, thigh 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
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Hip Bone Damage (Osteonecrosis)

    Osteonecrosis of the hip is painful, progressive damage of the hip joint caused by a loss of blood flow.

    Hip/groin/thigh pain that affects your hip motion should be assessed for osteonecrosis as soon as possible (ER), where imaging via MRI (and rarely, X-rays) might visualize the injury. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease, and includes everything from physical therapy to medications to improve bone strength to surgery to take out dead bone.

    Top Symptoms:
    limping, severe or worsening pain in the hip or groin area, thigh pain, pain in one knee, deep, throbbing hip pain
    Symptoms that always occur with hip bone damage (osteonecrosis):
    severe or worsening pain in the hip or groin area
    Hospital emergency room
  9. 9.Ewing Sarcoma

    Ewing sarcoma is a type of bone cancer often affecting the legs, pelvis, ribs, arms or spine. It can occur anytime during childhood and young adulthood; it is rarely seen in adults.

    You should visit your primary care physician within the next 24 hours. An early diagnosis and treatment plan can increase the possibility of a favorable outcome.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, rib pain, pelvis pain
    Primary care doctor

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.Is your upper leg pain getting better or worse?
  • Q.Is your upper leg pain constant or come-and-go?
  • Q.How long has your upper leg pain been going on?
  • Q.How severe is your upper leg pain?

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

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Thigh Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced thigh pain have also experienced:

    • 7% Lower Back Pain
    • 7% Hip Pain
    • 4% Difficulty Walking
  • People who have experienced thigh pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 32% Over a Month
    • 27% Less Than a Week
    • 24% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced thigh pain were most often matched with:

    • 9% Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
    • 1% Spinal Stenosis
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Thigh Pain Checker

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

Take a quiz