Thigh pain

By Jay Herrera, DPT
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Young sport man with strong athletic legs holding knee with his hands in pain after suffering ligament injury  isolated on white.

Thigh pain

The thigh is that part of human anatomy extending from the hip to the knee. The leg bone is called the femur. The anterior thigh muscles are known as the quadriceps which allow for knee joint extension. The adductors are part of the medial anterior the thigh. The posterior thigh muscles are the hamstrings which flex the knee.

Most common causes of thigh pain include:

1. Muscle strain, from overuse such a long walks or various sports activities.

2. Nerve pain such in the femoral (front of leg) or sciatic nerve in the back of leg. Leg pain from sciatica may be due to irritated or pinch nerve from the lower back or due to a lumbar disc bulge or herniation. Spinal stensois, is an advanced arthritic condition which can also impact the sciatic nerve roots.

3. Meralgia paresthethica : caused by irritation or pressure on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This condition may present with numbness, burning, or itching symptoms along the side of the thigh. If this occurs consider first removing the irritation of the nerve such a tight fitting clothing, weight reduction or tight fitting belts. eg. Work tool belts.

4. Other thigh pains may be due to diabetes or rarely occurring deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is caused by a blood clot. DVT often presents as a sudden onset of pain leg that does not improve after a few days. Also there may be localized tenderness, swelling or redness near a vein. This pain may come on during walking. This requires medical attention and may require blood thinner medication.


Thigh pain may be short lived or may become chronic. Most conditions such a mild muscle strains may be self limiting or no treatment or short term home care.

For acute muscle strains apply ice. As the pain subsides apply heat and initiate light stretching exercises. Appling salves may also provide relief for some people.

If the pain does not respond to home self care seek professional medical help from a chiropractor, physical therapist or sports medicine physician.

Conservative treatments include muscle and joint mobilization, muscle balancing, stretching, and strengthening exercises. Some people practice Tai-Chi or may obtain relief from acupuncture. Studies have shown the acupuncture helps reduce inflammation, improve muscle stiffness, and to improve local blood flow thus promoting increased joint function and healing.

More serious and chronic conditions such a muscle tears and disc disorder or spinal stenosis, which do not respond to conservative care may require surgical intervention.