Thigh pain, which is the pain felt in the area of the leg stretching from the hip to the knee, could be caused due to a wide range of reasons. The thigh consists of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves and blood vessels. While the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons provide structural support, the nerves bring information generated by stimuli to the brain and carry messages from the brain to the body parts to take necessary action. Generally, there is sufficient space for the nerves to pass through the joints, muscles and bones. However, the openings for the nerves may get squeezed due to an injury or other conditions that may cause swelling or pressure. This leads to nerve compression.
The impingement of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which is one of the largest sensory nerves running through the legs, is one of the most common reason behind thigh pain. It may adversely affect mobility, or even cause paralysis in severe cases. Pain in thigh could even be a referred pain arising from inflamed muscles, ligaments or tendons in the pelvic region. There can be various other acute or chronic illnesses that can lead to pain in the thighs. Scroll down to know more about the medical conditions that may be responsible for causing pain in thigh.
Causes of Pain in Thighs
Pain can be felt in the anterior, posterior or lateral region of the thigh. Recurring bouts of pain in one or both thighs could even result from overuse of muscles in this region. Pain in the thigh may be caused by traumatic injuries and repetitive stress injuries. Indulging in strenuous physical activities without performing warm-up exercises may also cause sprains, ligament tears, pulled hamstring or strained quadriceps muscle which in turn may cause pain in the anterior, posterior or outer region of the thigh. Pain could even be caused due to medical conditions that may of a serious nature. Scroll down to learn about the contributory factors for acute or chronic pain in the thighs.
Meralgia Paresthetica: Meralgia paresthetica refers to a tingling sensation, numbness or a burning pain that is experienced in the front and the outer part of the thigh. It is caused due to the impingement of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which is the nerve that supplies sensation to the surface of the outer thigh. Obesity, sudden weight gain, diabetes and pregnancy may make one susceptible to this condition. Formation of scar tissue around the inguinal ligament due to an injury or scar tissue formation post surgery could also cause this nerve to get trapped under the ligament. Such a burning pain in the thigh could also occur due to an increased pressure on the groin due to wearing tight clothing.
Sciatica: A pinched sciatic nerve can cause lower back pain that may radiate towards the thighs. This nerve could get impinged by herniated inter-vertebral discs. Lumbar spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis are other conditions that may lead to sciatica. Sciatic nerve could even be compressed by the piriformis muscle that runs very close to it.
Benign or Cancerous Growths: Lipoma is a non-cancerous growth of soft tissues. Its occurrence in the thigh is most likely to cause acute pain in the thigh. A cancerous tumor called Ewing's sarcoma, can occur in the middle of the long bone present in the thighs. Mostly, children of 10-15 years of age are the victims. It causes swelling at the tumor location, fever, bruises and thigh pain in children. Osteosarcoma is another type of cancer that typically affects the long bones of the body. Thigh bones are among the common places of occurrence. This may cause a sharp pain in thigh bone. Osteosarcoma may cause swelling or redness of the skin and severe thigh pain when sitting, walking or due to any movement.
Infection: Osteomyelitis or infection of the bone present in the thighs, is one of the common causes of pain in the thigh. It blocks proper circulation of blood in the thighs. Septic arthritis is another medical condition that occurs when bacteria find a way into the joint. A bacterial infection of the joints in the hips can cause the pain to radiate towards the groin and thigh. This often induces pain in the thigh when walking.
Bone Disorders: Osteoarthritis is a degenerative bone disease that is characterized by inflammation of the joints. Osteoarthritis is caused due to the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints. Cartilage refers to flexible connective tissue that covers the ends of the bone. Once the cartilage gets worn-out, the bones start rubbing against each other. This gives rise to sharp pain and can also restrict the range of motion of the joint. If the hip joint is affected by this condition, one may experience an acute pain in hips and thighs.
Pregnancy: Sharp thigh pains during pregnancy may occur mainly due to the various changes occurring in the body. The blood volume increases and the circulatory system has to work harder during pregnancy. Conditions such as edema, round ligament and symphysis pubis dysfunction can also cause pain in the thighs during pregnancy.
Compartment Syndrome: This condition is associated with increased pressure in the muscle compartment that includes muscle tissue, nerves and blood vessels. Swelling in such a confined space can exerts pressure, thereby causing damage to the nerves, blood vessels and muscles. Serious problems can arise if the blood flow or oxygen supply to the compartment gets blocked.
Symptoms of Thigh Pain
An early diagnosis of the underlying cause of pain in the thigh is necessary to prevent any damage to the thigh bone. Here are some of the symptoms that may be indicative of aforementioned medical conditions.
- Pain in the outer side of the thigh and knee
- Pain in the groin area, radiating into the buttocks
- Burning sensation or numbness in the thigh
- Swelling along the thigh
- Sharp pain in thigh bone
- Feeling of stiffness in the thigh muscle
- Immobility of the thigh due to strain in the thigh muscle
- Thigh pain when sitting or walking
- Sharp pain on placing any weight on the thighs
Treatment for Thigh Pain
Since pain in the thighs could be caused due to various reasons, it is essential to identify the underlying cause. The treatment options would vary depending on the underlying cause. Drug therapy may be required for treating degenerative bone diseases or a pinched nerve. The patient must refrain from indulging in any physical activity that may worsen the condition. Since obesity is a risk factor, those who are overweight would benefit by losing weight. In case of severe pain, the physician can administer an injection of a corticosteroid preparation to reduce the risk of inflammation. Surgery is only resorted to if other treatment options are not providing any relief. However, surgery may be required if pain in the thigh region is resulting from a benign or cancerous growth or compartment syndrome.
There have been cases where patients have developed pain in the thighs after hip replacement surgery. The major cause is the implantation of a stiff implant in the hip bone. Such people must consult their doctor immediately. It is always better to consult a physician for necessary medical assistance. You can also try some home remedies to alleviate pain. Applying a heat pad or warm compresses may certainly help. Take steam baths and massage your thigh with warm mustard oil at least once a week. Take 3-4 drops of cod liver oil daily. It cures all types of leg pain and also helps in treating physical weakness. You can also perform yoga for pain relief. Janusandhi, Uttanpadasana and Gomukhasana are some of the highly beneficial yoga asanas that would help in relieving pain in the thighs. You can also consult a physiotherapist and perform the recommended exercises to relieve pain in thighs.
This was a brief overview on pain in the thighs. If you have been experiencing recurring bouts of thigh pain, seek medical help immediately. A timely diagnosis and treatment will ensure a quick recovery.