Thigh Pain

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What is it?

Leg and thigh pain is common after an injury, but there are also many non-traumatic causes.Pain in the legs and thighs can be present because of conditions that affect bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments,blood vessels, nerves, and skin. And back ailments may also be present with leg and thigh pain.Upper thigh pain symptoms may be a result of arthritis or a degenerative bone disease such as osteoporosis. These symptoms can also be a sign of a circulatory problem such as peripheral arterial disease (PAD) or other circulatory problems like heart disease.


What causes it?

Trauma is the most obvious cause of leg pain. Falls, near falls, and twisting injuries can damage bones, muscles, and joints or a combination of all three. Pain from an injury to the back can inflame the sciatic nerve and cause sciatica, or pain that radiates down the leg. Overuse injuries can also cause pain. Upper thigh pain can occur in the muscles, tendons, joints and even bones in the pelvis region. It is often caused by repetitive stress movements during sports or rigorous activities, but it can also be caused by aging or certain diseases.Upper thigh pain symptoms can vary from mild aching to more severe or acute pain.


Other common causes include: 

  • BleedingInjuries can cause bleeding into tissues and joints. Since blood, like any fluid, cannot be compressed, the swelling causes  significant amount of pain as the pressure increases.

  • Blood clot: (obstruction in one of the arteries to the leg causing acute pain) This may result in Deep Vain Thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins.Varicose veins are formed when superficial veins chronically dilate and swell, often causing pain.

  • Chronic illness: (eg alcoholism, cancer, diabetes and vitamin deficiencies may result in nerve pain that can affect the legs.

  • Diabetes: (Nerves and blood vessels may deteriorate over many years and lose their function, resulting in leg pain).

  • Fractures: When the leg or thigh bone (femur) is broken or cracked. Most pain arises from the nerve endings located in the fibrous tissue lining of the bone, called the periosteum. And muscles surrounding the bone go into spasm and intensify the pain.

  • Growing pains: (this occurs in children and is most likely due to muscle overuse. It can also be associated with a mild stretching as the muscles grow along with bone).

  • Hamstring injuries (strains)

  • Joint pain/arthritis: (this may occur because of a local injury but may also be due to medical conditions that can cause inflammation and swelling).

  • Low back pain: Sciatica (inflammation of the sciatic nerve) may radiate into the buttocks and down the leg.

  • Muscle pain: (Myalgia) - usually due to overuse (mild trauma) or associated with the generalized aches and pain of an infection.

  • Muscle cramps (especially common in calf muscles)

  • Muscles spasms

  • Neuropathy(peripheral nerve inflammation not associated with the spinal cord. These conditions are known as peripheral neuropathies. This can occur from direct nerve irritation or from a medical illness.

  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Pain in one leg may be due to peripheral artery disease (a decrease in arterial blood supply due to narrowing of blood vessels to the leg).

  • Shingles: (inflammation of a nerve root), if it occurs in the back, can cause significant pain in the leg.

  • Shin splints: (tibial stress syndrome) - This is usually caused by an overuse injury and is often associated with running, jumping or dancing.

  • Sprains and strains: (Injuries to ligaments or muscles and tendons). Both sprains and strains result in swelling and inflammation that causes pain.

  • Skin: (Skin inflammation may cause significant pain as well as skin abnormalities such as lacerations and skin tears, including ulcers).


Common treatments

The treatment of leg pain depends upon the diagnosis. Once the reason for the pain is established, treatment is focused on both pain control and controlling the underlying problem to prevent or lessen future occurrences. Home treatment depends on the reason for the leg pain. For sprains and strains, RICE is the most common treatment: rest, ice, compression and elevation. Anti-inflammation medication or over the counter pain relievers may also be prescribed for pain control. For hamstring injuries (strains) RICE treatment is also usually recommended. Often stretching exercises are used to help restore the hamstring muscles to their full length to allow full range of motion of the knee and leg. (Physical therapy is usually supervised by a health-care practitioner).People with sciatic pain should consider a short period of bed rest (usually less than 24 hours) followed by light activity, as tolerated. Alternating ice and heat may be helpful. Anti-inflammatory medication is also sometimes used.Chiropractic or physical therapy treatmentsmay also help. If acute pain with leg swelling or loss of feeling associated with a cold leg occurs, medical care should be sought immediately.


Common thigh pain treatments

Again, the treatment for thigh pain largely depends upon the source. The basic aim of thigh pain treatment is to remove the cause of compression of the nerves.


Home remedies for thigh pain include:  

  • Ice and heat

  • Light exercise/stretching (as recommended by a health professional)

  • Massage

  • Medications (Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications)

  • Rest

  • Yoga

However, some conditions may require surgery.For severe thigh pain a physician may administer an injection of a corticosteroid preparation to reduce the risk of inflammation.You should always consult a health professional for appropriate treatment to alleviate thigh pain. 

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About Pain does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment