Thigh pain


Of the Thigh refers to the section of the leg that lies between the hip and the knee and from the Thigh bone, anterior, lateral and posterior muscles, vessels and nerves as well as adipose and connective tissue.

Thigh pain can have many different causes and is often associated with sports injuries. The thigh pain is also common Knee joints or that hip joint impaired, which can lead to incorrect loading and a resulting painful event.

For a more precise description of the thigh pain, different subdivisions are made:

  • Pain characteristics: The pain can be sharp, dull, punctiform, diffuse, with or without radiation to adjacent body regions. For example, it can be pain from a convulsive event or from stiffness.
  • Duration of pain: This can be sporadic, one-time or chronic pain.
  • Pain triggers: The pain can occur, among other things, at rest, after long periods of sitting, lying down or after physical exertion such as climbing stairs or exercising as well as extreme movements such as squatting.

Accompanying symptoms such as paresthesia, numbness and tingling or back pain and knee pain must also be taken into account in order to get to the bottom of the cause of the thigh pain.

The painful event can restrict the gait and certain movements and also put stress on the joints and muscles. In this way, this problem can quickly increase and pain symptoms can develop throughout the body. Chronic and very severe thigh pain in particular can have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected and should therefore be treated by a specialist doctor if possible.

Are you interested in this topic? Read more about this in our next article: Pain in the thigh and hip

Causes of Acute Thigh Pain

Thigh pain can have various causes and should therefore be examined by a specialist.

Injury to the thigh muscles is the most common explanation for acute thigh pain. This can be an overload of the muscles through physical activity such as jogging and the like. This pain should then subside after a few days and then completely disappear again. This is also referred to as severe muscle soreness, where overuse leads to micro-tears in the muscles. This form of thigh pain can be prevented as far as possible through a specific warm-up program, not too intense physical exertion and sufficient stretching before, after and during physical activity.
Are the pain after an external act of violence, e.g. a fall, blow or kick could also be caused by a thigh contusion.
Tendonitis on the thigh can also be caused by excessive strain or improper strain, but it can also be caused by a leg misalignment. These pains usually last a few weeks even with adequate rest.

Alternatively, it may even be a torn muscle fiber that is responsible for a long-lasting pain event. This is also caused by overexertion of the muscles and should be treated with physical rest, cooling and pain therapy with medication (see: torn muscle fiber of the thigh).

In very rare cases there is an injury to the thigh bone or a tumorous change. This suspicion can be ruled out or substantiated very quickly by means of an imaging method, for example in the form of an X-ray image.

Also read the article: The quadriceps tendon rupture.

Sore thighs

Muscle soreness is a painful feeling in the muscles that occurs one to two days after strenuous exercise, in this case the thigh muscles. The sore muscles are not caused by an accumulation of lactic acid, as long assumed, but rather by the smallest injuries to the muscle fibers. The injuries cause water to accumulate (edema) in the muscles, which leads to pain and stiffness in the thigh

The pain can be felt with movement, touch, and muscle stretching. If the muscles are warmed up, the pain can be improved. A visit to the sauna can relieve sore muscles. In addition, the muscles should not be immobilized, but treated with light-intensity sports such as cycling, swimming or jogging. As a rule, the sore muscles will disappear after a maximum of one week.

Find out all about the topic here: Aching.

Thigh pain after hip replacement surgery

Pain shortly after a total hip replacement is normal and is treated with pain medication. However, this can also be due to an infection of the prosthesis or a dislocation of the artificial joint. The operation can also promote a fractured thigh.

If the prosthesis has been in use a few months or even years ago, the pain can be caused by loosening the prosthesis. It is advisable that people with hip replacement surgery see a doctor if they have new hip or thigh pain so that a serious cause can be ruled out and treated if necessary.

Find out more about the topic here: Hip TEP.

Thigh pain with a herniated disc

In the case of a herniated disc, which usually affects adults between the ages of 30 and 50, the disc herniates into the spinal canal where the spinal cord runs. If the spinal cord is irritated by the intervertebral disc, the nerves are irritated.

At the level of the lumbar spine, the nerves that supply the legs emerge from the spinal cord.Therefore, a herniated disc can lead to thigh pain that pulls from the back to the legs. In addition, numbness, tingling, and muscle weakness can occur. To rule out a serious incident, the herniated disc should be clarified by a doctor.

more on the subject Herniated disc of the lumbar spine read here.

Thigh pain from an abscess

An abscess describes an accumulation of pus caused by bacteria, which is separated from the surrounding tissue by a capsule. On the one hand, the abscess can arise due to bacteria that have entered through a wound. On the other hand, an abscess can occur as a result of a surgical procedure.

In addition to pain, symptoms such as redness, swelling and overheating of the skin can be observed. Furthermore, fever and a weakened general condition can occur. It is important to treat the abscess to prevent the bacteria from spreading into the bloodstream and preventing sepsis (blood poisoning).

For more information, read on: Abscess.

Causes of Chronic Thigh Pain

The most common cause of chronic thigh pain is dysfunction and irritation of the nerves that supply the thigh with motor and sensitivity. These come from the spinal cord and leave at the level of the lumbar spine as a so-called Lumbar plexus the spinal canal and supply the entire lower extremity.

Through the localization of the pain, the pain event can be assigned to one or more specific nerves. This dysfunction can result, for example, from a lumbar disc herniation. In addition to the thigh pain, pain in other parts of the body can often be detected. The pain can also be accompanied by sensory disturbances and decreased strength. However, a functional disorder or irritation of a nerve does not necessarily exist at the point where it emerges from the spinal canal. In principle, the entire course of the nerve can be compressed by muscles, accumulations of fluid, foreign bodies or other types of masses.

A slight increase in pressure can also lead to a pain event, so that the search for the cause can be very difficult.
Very detailed imaging procedures such as CT and MRI of the lumbar spine can help in the search for a compression of such a nerve or rule this out as a cause as far as possible.

Meralgia paraesthetica

Meralgia paraesthetica is a constriction of the nerve that supplies the outer thigh with sensitivity. Sensory disturbances such as numbness and tingling sensations and pain in the outer thigh occur.

An increase in pressure in the abdominal cavity during pregnancy or due to being overweight can trigger meralgia paraesthetica. Constriction from the outside by belts, corsets or waistbands can also irritate the nerves. Hence this disease is also called jeans lesion. If the triggering cause is removed, the symptoms usually disappear spontaneously.

Read more about the article here: Meralgia paraesthetica.

Thigh pain when sitting

Thigh pain is common in people who sit for long periods of time. For example, poor posture while sitting (office job) can lead to over-tensioning of the muscles and consequently to pain. If the legs are crossed for a long time while sitting, this can also lead to poor posture and pain, especially on the inside of the thigh.

Sitting too long can also pinch the nerve that feeds the front thigh. In addition to pain, this can also lead to numbness and tingling sensations. Particularly in thin people, who are exposed to greater stress on the ischial legs due to the lack of fat pads, pain in the buttocks can occur, which radiates into the rear thighs.

The accompanying symptoms

The numbness as a symptom

Numbness is a sign of irritation or damage to the nerves. Muscle tension, which can be caused, for example, by excessive stress or poor posture, can irritate surrounding nerves.

Problems with the spine or back (lumbago, herniated disc) can also make themselves felt as numbness in the thighs.

Also read the article: Numbness of the thigh and Symptoms of a herniated disc.

The thigh cramp as a symptom

A cramp in the thigh can be caused by excessive strain on the muscles. The cramp comes spontaneously and usually disappears after a few seconds to minutes. Electrolyte disturbances, which can occur when the water balance is disturbed, are also a possible cause of cramps.
The body's electrolyte balance can be influenced, for example, in the event of excessive water excretion, such as after heavy sweating, diarrhea or vomiting. Drinking too little can also disturb the water and electrolyte balance.

Medication can also cause cramps in the thigh. Especially when taking statins (fat reducers) it can lead to muscle breakdown, which in the worst case can lead to acute kidney failure. Therefore, this medication should definitely be discontinued again if side effects occur.

A burning sensation in the thigh

The burning sensation on the skin is a symptom that occurs when nerves become irritated or damaged. Meralgia paraesthetica can occur in the course of the disease, in which the nerve supplying the outside of the thigh is narrowed.

So-called polyneuropathy, which occurs particularly as a result of long-term alcoholism or in patients with diabetes mellitus (diabetes), can cause sensory disorders in the thigh with burning, numbness, pins and needles and pain. The course of the disease is usually insidious and often begins in the feet.

Read more about the topic here: Polyneuropathy.

Lymph node swelling on the thigh

The thigh lymph nodes are in the groin. These can be swollen due to various triggers. The swelling of the lymph nodes generally indicates that the immune system is working.

If there is an infection in the thigh, for example an abscess (a collection of pus) or a bacterial inflammation of the skin, the lymph nodes can swell. Cancer of the thighs can also cause lymph node swelling.

If there is a new swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, a doctor should be consulted and the underlying cause should be clarified.

Front thigh pain

If the thigh pain primarily affects the front of the thigh, it can usually be assumed that the femoral nerve is irritated, which supplies the anterior thigh and the quadriceps femoris muscle, which is the largest part of the anterior thigh muscles, in a sensory and motorized manner.

The nerve irritation can result from overstressing the thigh as part of frequent hip flexion movements and physical activity, or from long periods of sitting, which can result in pinching and mechanical irritation of the nerve in the groin. In this case, in addition to the pain, numbness or tingling will also occur.

Another cause of front thigh pain is bad posture and malpositions in the back, hips or feet. For example, the constant buckling of one hip while standing leads to one-sided hardening of the quadriceps, which in turn can lead to thigh pain.

Read more on the subject at: Front thigh pain

Inner thigh pain

The pain on the inside of the thigh can also be caused by overuse of the muscles, the so-called adductor group, or by irritation of the nerve supplying it. The nerve that innervates the inside of the thigh Obturator nerve called.

A small part of the inner thigh muscles is used by the Genitofemoral nerve provided. If this is irritated or damaged in its course, there will be pain in the groin and pain in the testicles in addition to pain in the thigh, as these body regions are also supplied by a branch of the nerve.

Overuse of the muscles is mainly caused by the sports of riding and soccer. Accidents such as slipping on black ice, which inevitably leads to an outward lunge movement with spreading of the legs, can lead to overuse or even strain of the adductors. Incorrect body positions and postures, such as sitting with your legs crossed, can also overload these muscles.

Inflammation or broken bones in the pelvic area as well as operations on the abdomen can lead to nerve irritation Obturator nerve come, which is also expressed by internal thigh pain.

Read more on the subject at: Inner thigh pain

Outer thigh pain

The Outer thigh is through the Lateral femoral cutaneous nerve which supplies the outer thigh.

In this area the muscles are made up of a large tendon, the Iliotibial band covered, which is often the starting point of the painful event. By incorrect loading or by sticking this sinewy Tract isolated pain in the outer thigh can occur. An incorrect and excessive load arises, for example, from walking with your legs apart or from the presence of Knock knees. In this case, the knees are also often affected by the misalignment and are increasingly stressed, which leads to degeneration and restricted mobility. In addition, the crossing of the inguinal ligament can compress the supplying nerve and thereby irritate it.

Back thigh pain

Pain in the back of the thigh is mostly associated with the sciatic nerve. This can be pinched and irritated at various points in its course and, in addition to thigh pain, can also trigger back pain, tailbone pain, buttock pain or even pain in the lower leg and foot. The nerve also emerges from the spinal canal at the level of the lower lumbar spine and runs through a hole in the pelvis, which is divided by the piriformis muscle, along the inner back of the thigh to the hollow of the knee. It is covered in its course by the rear thigh muscles.

The cause of the irritation of this nerve can be a lumbar disc herniation or a hardening of the gluteal muscles. Here is above all the Piriformis muscle important, because this is in close proximity to the nerve and is often tense and can lead to permanent compression of the nerve. In many cases, the wrong sitting posture leads to increased strain on the back of the thighs or the buttocks. For example, a lying position in a chair, which initially gives a relaxed impression, leads to permanent tension in the rear thigh muscles. In addition to this common nerve cause, the muscle fascia on the back of the thigh can also stick together.

Read more on the subject at: Pain in the back of the thigh

Thigh pain at night

For thigh pain, especially At night and in peace occur, it can include the disease Meralgia paraesthetica act. Here it comes to a Compression of the Lateral femoral cutaneous nervethat supplies the outer thigh muscles. This disease is triggered by infections, toxins or surgery.
It comes to Sensory sensation, pain and burning sensation especially on the outside of the thigh. These symptoms are usually one-sided. The pain mainly occurs when the legs are stretched or when the pressure is increased when lying on your side, as can be the case at night. The suspected diagnosis can be corroborated by a targeted grip of the examining doctor with pressure on the anterior upper iliac spine.

Another possible cause of resting thigh pain is the Irritation of the nerve roots at their exit points from the spinal canal or in the course. In some cases a Hip arthrosis lead to these symptoms (see: Hip osteoarthritis symptoms).

Thigh Pain During Pregnancy

New physical ailments are not uncommon during pregnancy. These occur mainly because the body is exposed to unusual loads as a result of the weight gain. Ligaments become more elastic due to the hormonal changes, which limits the stability in the pelvis and, as a result, in the legs. An incorrect load occurs, which in turn can lead to pain.

In addition, the increased strain on the muscles can lead to tension and pain. Gentle stretching exercises can help counteract discomfort during pregnancy.

Find out all about the topic here: Pregnancy.

What to do with thigh pain

In order to relieve thigh pain in the long term and prevent it from occurring again, causal therapy is, therefore, one Treatment of the underlying disease, makes sense.

Are the thigh pain just by a physical overexertion conditionally, it should Sports behavior changed become. The athlete's electrolyte balance can also be improved by the administration of magnesium stabilized, which should be taken more with physical activity.

For more serious causes, there are various therapy options, which are best discussed in a consultation with a specialist doctor and depending on the individual case. Just at degenerative changes Like herniated discs, however, surgical therapy must be carefully considered, as this is usually a major intervention and the chances of success are not always promising (see: Lumbar disc herniation therapy). In rare cases there is one Injury to the bone as the cause of the thigh pain. This should then surgically supplied become (see: Femur fracture).

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In addition to causal therapy, if the patient needs it, drug-based pain therapy should be given (see: Painkillers).

The drugs that are grouped together as the NSAID group are particularly suitable for this purpose. This abbreviation stands for the name nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. They include Ibuprofen® and ASS®, among others. In addition to providing pain relief, these drugs can also reduce inflammation.
Muscle relaxants, i.e. drugs that relax the muscles, can also be used. If these drugs are not sufficient to relieve pain, stronger painkillers can be prescribed that cause central pain relief in the brain (opioids).
If polyneuropathies, which are caused by permanent nerve damage, are responsible for the pain, opioids, antidepressants and anticonvulsants (drugs that are given for epilepsy) are used to treat the pain.

However, with long-term pain medication it is essential to ensure that the patient does not become dependent on them. Side effects, such as the acid load on the stomach, should also be taken into account if ibuprofen is taken continuously.

More options for pain relief

In addition to drug therapy, physical applications in the form of heat or cold therapy, physiotherapy and muscle building in a painless phase are suitable. Physiotherapy can relieve painful tension and blockages in the muscles, so that symptoms can be relieved quickly.

Another therapeutic option is the injection of local anesthetics to numb the pain. These are usually mixed with anti-inflammatory substances in the form of cortisone. They can be injected specifically into the nerve irritation site. This can be done, for example, at the level of the spinal column by means of an injection into the spinal nerve root monitored by computer tomography, or also in the further course of the nerve. Often, however, a single numbness of the nerve is only sufficient for a limited period of time, so the procedure must be repeated. If no long-term improvement can be achieved, there is the possibility of a permanent pain injection through a so-called pain catheter.

Read more about the topic here: Local anesthetics - the local anesthetic.

The duration of thigh pain

The duration of thigh pain depends on the underlying cause. In general, thigh pain has a good prognosis, as it is mostly due to muscular problems. A cramp of the thigh muscles usually disappears after a few seconds to minutes.

If the pain was caused by a spinal problem, the pain can still be noticeable for up to several weeks after, for example, a herniated disc. The pain due to a meralgia paraesthetica (jeans pants lesion) usually disappears spontaneously once the trigger is removed. A sore muscles usually disappear after a maximum of a week.