Upper Thigh Pain: 7 Possible Causes Plus Treatment Options

Written by Jamie Page
Physiotherapist, Salford University
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on July 21, 2022

Woman clutching at her right upper thigh in pain

Upper thigh pain is caused by minor muscle injuries and is treatable at home. Other times, it may occur for no apparent reason. When pain is intense and does not go away, it may indicate a severe issue.

What are the symptoms of upper thigh pain?

The usual symptoms include pain in the front or back of the thigh, a tingling sensation and numbness, muscle weakness, burning pain, the inability to move the affected leg, and difficulty walking. Pinched nerves typically cause thigh pain depending on the spine's position.

The 7 Possible Causes of Upper Thigh Pain

Overuse and repetitive stress on your thigh muscle can cause inflammation in your muscles, tendons and ligaments. It can cause muscle injuries, sprains and strains, which are the most common cause of thigh pain.

Various conditions precipitate upper thigh pain and are discussed in more detail below.

1. Greater trochanteric pain syndrome

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome can be felt outside the upper thighs and is caused by injury, pressure, or repetitive movements.[1] It is most common in women and runners from overuse as well.

People, especially athletes, complain of pain that worsens when lying down on the affected side, worsens over time, walking or running, and hip muscle weakness. Lifestyle changes, weight loss, icing, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and steroid injections are treatments for people with greater trochanteric pain.

2. ITB syndrome

Iliotibial band syndrome is another condition affecting runners, located outside the thigh from the hip to the skin, where it becomes inflamed and tight. Pain and swelling are the main symptoms found around the knees and sometimes in the thigh.[3]

Treatments include limiting physical activity, physical therapy, and medications to ease the pain and inflammation. Surgery is offered for severe cases.

3. Muscle strains

Muscle strains occur mainly in the hamstrings and usually cause thigh pain. People with strains can experience an abrupt onset of pain, soreness in the area, limited range of movement, bruising or discolouration, swelling, knotted up feeling, muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness.[4]

Ice, heat, and anti-inflammatory medications are the first line of treatment for strains. In more severe strain or the event of tears, it may require treatment by a doctor, especially if the pain does not get better after several days, goes numb, or is immobile.

4. Hip flexor strain

Hip flexor muscle strain happens because of overuse and could cause pain or muscle spasms in your thighs.[5] Individuals with this type of issue can have pain that occurs suddenly whenever the thigh is lifted towards the chest and stretching the hip muscles.

In addition, they also have muscle spasms at the hip or thigh, tenderness whenever being touched at the front of the hip, and swelling or bruising. Hip flexor strain is treated like any other strain, but in some cases, physical therapy and surgery can solve it.

5. Meralgia paresthetica

This condition happens when pressure is placed on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, through nerve entrapment.[5] It can be felt as a tingling, numbness, and burning pain in the outer part of one of your thighs.

Some possible causes of meralgia paresthetica include tight clothing, obesity, late-stage pregnancy, scar tissue from a past injury or surgery, diabetes-related neuropathy or injury, carrying a wallet or cellphone in the front and side pockets, hypothyroidism, and even lead poisoning.

Treatment involves measures to determine its cause. Wearing loose clothing or losing weight are advised, and doing exercises to improve flexibility and increase the strength of the affected leg to ease the pain further. In some cases, prescription medications and surgery are recommended as well.

6. Blood clot or deep vein thrombosis

A blood clot in one of the major veins is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).[6] While this may be more common on the lower legs, it can happen on one or both of your thighs. Sometimes people do not feel anything, but others feel symptoms such as:

  • Swelling and warm to touch

  • Pain and tenderness in the area; and a

  • Pale or bluish discolouration.

It can turn into a life-threatening situation when you move the leg without precaution, known as pulmonary embolism. This occurs when a blood clot travels to the lungs, and it is important to note these symptoms:

  • Sudden shortness of breath

  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens when you take deep breaths or coughing

  • Rapid pulse

  • Coughing up blood.

Having DVT has many risk factors:

  • The injury that damages the veins in your legs and pelvis

  • A family history of DVT, a catheter placed in a vein

  • Taking birth controls or undergoing hormone therapy

  • Heavy smoking usage

  • Staying seated for a long time when you are in a car or on a plane (if you have associated other risk factors)

  • Pregnancy

  • Recent surgery.

Treatment for DVT is mainly lifestyle changes, losing weight, prescription of blood thinners, use of compression stockings, and in seldom cases, surgery.

7. Diabetic neuropathy

A complication of diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, happens because of uncontrolled high blood sugar levels. It happens on both hands and feet, but it can spread to other parts of the body, including the thighs.

Individuals with this condition complain of sensitivity to touch, loss of sense of touch, difficulty with coordination when walking, pain, and numbness, muscle weakness or wasting, nausea and indigestion, diarrhoea or constipation, excessive sweating, vaginal dryness in women and erectile dysfunction in men.[7]

Even if there is no cure for diabetic neuropathy, treatment to manage pain and other symptoms may involve lifestyle changes and measures to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and medications for pain management.

Risk factors for thigh pain

The typical risk factors for having upper thigh pain are repetitive exercises such as running, being overweight or obese, diabetes, and pregnancy.

Diagnosis of upper thigh pain

A physician will complete a physical examination to evaluate the reason for the thigh pain, the risk factors, and the pertinent symptoms. In the case of meralgia paresthetica, other imaging tests like the electromyogram or the nerve conduction study, or MRI to determine if nerves are compressed or damaged.

Treatment of upper thigh pain

Home remedies can be used for most cases of upper thigh pain, such as ice, heat, over the counter pain medications, weight management, moderating activity, and stretching and strengthening exercises for the upper leg and the core muscles.

If the pain does not go away after several days or the development of more severe problems appear, seeking medical treatment is imperative. Physical therapy, prescription medications, and surgery are required in numerous cases.


Complications of thigh pain occur, especially with deep vein thrombosis, and it can be life-threatening if not addressed. If you are feeling these symptoms, call emergency services immediately.

  • Shortness of breath

  • Anxiety

  • Clammy or bluish skin

  • Chest pain that spreads to the arm, jaw, neck, and shoulder

  • Fainting

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Lightheadedness

  • Rapid breathing and heartbeat

  • Restlessness

  • Spitting up blood

  • Weak pulse

Prevention of upper thigh pain

Early on, determining the cause of thigh pain is crucial to prevent it from worsening. With DVT, prevention may include prescription medications and compression stockings. Furthermore, many other preventive techniques include lifestyle changes, maintaining a healthy weight, performing stretching exercises, doing moderate physical activity, and home remedies.


Upper thigh pain may be alleviated at home with some simple strategies such as ice, heat, activity moderation, and over the counter medications. If these do not help and are accompanied by serious symptoms, it is best to call for immediate medical assistance.

Written by Jamie Page
Physiotherapist, Salford University
Published on July 21, 2022
Medically reviewed by Dr Gina Arena
Research Fellow, University of Western Australia
Reviewed on July 21, 2022
Medical reviewers
Last medically reviewed on July 21, 2022
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