The thigh is made up of the femur which connects your hip/pelvis region to your knee. On the upper end, the head of the femur meets the acetabulum in the pelvic bone, whilst on the lower end, the femur meets the tibia and the patellar forming the knee joint. The femur is a bone that is often fractured or broken, particularly the “neck of femur” in the elderly. As this joint is weight-bearing and heavily overused, many people develop osteoarthritis and need a hip replacement for this reason.
The muscles of the thigh can be broken up into your anterior front muscles, which are made up of your quadriceps, the posterior muscles (hamstrings) and the medial inner muscles. These major thigh muscles are the largest in the body and have a vital role in enabling us to walk, run, play sport, and generally move. There are also several blood vessels and nerves that run along the thigh.
Pain in the upper thigh can be difficult to diagnose because this area of the body contains many muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Pain could be radiating from different parts of the body such as the spine, hip, or knee. Alternatively, it could be due to a direct injury to the thigh itself.
There are numerous reasons for thigh pain, including overuse, injuries, sedentary lifestyle, hip or back injuries, and nerve or muscle inflammation. Describing how you feel to your physiotherapist is key in aiding the diagnosis and getting you on the right treatment plan as soon as possible.
How is thigh pain diagnosed?
A physiotherapist may ask you a number of questions to assist in their diagnosis. These include:
- How and when did the pain come about?
- Where exactly is the pain located?
- Is the pain in one thigh or both?
- What does the pain feel like? Is it a dull ache or sharp pain?
- How intense is the pain?
- Does it hurt more when you walk or when resting?
- Have you had any other knee, hip, back, leg, or foot injuries?
- What makes the pain worse? Or what makes it feel better?
- How does it affect your daily life?
- Do you have any pins and needles or numbness?
These questions together with a physical examination aids your doctor and or/physiotherapist in diagnosing your thigh pain and determining a treatment plan for you. They may refer you for an X-ray or MRI/CT scan.
Possible causes of thigh pain:
- Osteoarthritis of the hip
- Fracture of the neck or shaft of femur
- Trochanteric bursitis
- Iliotibial band syndrome
- Muscle strain of the quadriceps
- Femoral nerve pain
- Hip flexor/groin strain
- Perthes disease
- Referred pain from the spine, hip, or knee
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Upper hamstring tendinopathy
How to treat thigh pain
Treatment options include:
- Heat / ice therapy
- Weight management
- Moderating activity
- Pain medication
How we can help your thigh pain
We will do whatever we can to get you on the fastest route to recovery. Some of the treatment methods we use include:
- Strengthening exercises
- Myofascial trigger point release
- Cross-friction massage
- Stretching and range of movement exercises
- Functional exercises