Thigh Pain

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Thigh Pain

There are many potential reasons you are experiencing thigh pain. Your thigh has many muscles, tendons, joints, nerves and blood vessels that can all be injured and cause pain. Thigh pain can be very uncomfortable and disrupt your daily life since we need our legs for almost everything we do. At Just Physio, we understand the complex anatomy of your thigh and surrounding structures and will do a thorough assessment to determine where your thigh pain is coming from. From our findings, we can then customize a treatment plan specifically for you.

Thigh pain can have many causes. Trauma such as a hard blow to your thigh, fractures, or muscle injuries will cause immediate pain. These injuries are usually accompanied by swelling and bruising.
Overuse injuries can occur with repetitive activities or when you do something you are not used to. Overuse injuries include tendonitis, tendinopathies and arthritis. Less common causes include referred pain from other structures such as your hip, sacro-iliac or lower back joints, nerves or muscles. Some of the possible causes for thigh pain will be discussed in more detail in subsequent sections.

Muscle injuries

Your thigh has four major muscle groups. At the front of your thigh is your quadriceps muscle group, which has four parts. At the back of your thigh is your hamstrings, consisting of 3 parts. The inner part of your thigh has your adductor group, which has 6 parts. Your outer thigh has your tensor fascia lata muscle that forms a continuation with your ilio-tibial band (ITB).

Muscle strains and tears are seen more frequently in sports injuries and happen when a muscle forcefully contracts or is forcefully stretched. The severity of the muscle tear is graded according to the number of muscle fibres that are damaged. These injuries range from grade 1 tears where minimal fibres are torn, to grade 3, where a large number of muscle fibres are torn.

Muscle injuries generally heal well thanks to their sufficient blood supply. However, injuries that are neglected can lead to serious problems later on. For example, scar tissue that forms as you heal can restrict your movement. Also, bleeding into muscle tissue can cause permanent muscle damage and/or compress other structures, causing longstanding pain and weakness. Therefore, all muscle injuries should be treated properly as soon as possible.

Muscle injuries typically cause a dull, aching pain that is worse when you contract the affected muscle. Depending on the severity of your injury, you may or not be able to walk on your leg, or do your normal daily activities. After some time, your thigh might start swelling, and you may notice bruising and stiffness.

If you tear or strain your thigh muscle, please follow these steps as soon as possible:

  • Stop the activity that you were busy doing.
  • Follow the PRICE regime of Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Protect your injury and Rest by avoiding doing anything that increases your pain. Apply ice for 15-20minutes at a time every 2-3 hours to reduce the amount of bleeding in your muscle. You can wrap your thigh with a compression bandage and elevate your leg as you lie down.
  • Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medication for the first 48 hours after your injury as they will hinder your body’s natural healing process.
  • Consult your physiotherapist so that we can assess the extent of your injury, help you manage your symptoms and guide you through your recovery.
  • Do not ignore the injury or its associated symptoms.

At Just Physio, we can assess your injury, explain it to you, and guide you through every step of your recovery. We have the best expertise, tools, and techniques to provide you with the best treatment. We may decide to use ultrasound, electrotherapy, soft tissue massage, ice/heat, taping methods, bracing or compression bandages and gentle range-of-motion exercises initially.

Thereafter, we will take you through a strengthening, stretching and functional training programs specific to your needs. We always monitor each patient’s progress to determine whether our treatment is effective in reaching your goals, and if not, we adapt our treatments accordingly.

Thigh cramps and DOMS


Cramps are sudden involuntary muscle contractions that can be fairly painful. Cramps are normal and can happen after strenuous or repetitive activity, long durations of exercise, or when you are
dehydrated. When you have a cramp it makes it difficult to move your leg. Most cramps wear off quickly. However, if cramps occur more frequently and become more severe over time, it can
suggest a more serious underlying problem.

If this is happening to you, please make an appointment with us so that we can assess the reason you are cramping up. For the occasional cramps, it usually helps to take weight on the affected leg. Try to stand on your leg and gentle start moving your joints. Cramps are best avoided by staying hydrated during exercise, training or events. It also helps to replenish lost electrolytes through sports drinks. Ensure that you do proper warm-ups and cool-downs as well.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is exercise-induced pain. DOMS develops after doing too much of an exercise or an exercise your body is not accustomed to. Eccentric exercises, which are exercises where your muscles contract as they lengthen, are the ones that generally cause more severe DOMS. When we load our muscle in this way, we can cause very tiny tears in the muscle fibres. These micro-injuries cause an inflammatory reaction. DOMS develops 24 to 48 hours after exercise and feels like a dull muscle ache. With severe DOMS, you may have tenderness when touching your muscles, swelling, loss of muscle strength and reduced movement along with the pain and discomfort.

DOMS generally gets better with a period of rest. We advise you to avoid aggressive exercise until you are symptom-free. If you have a lot of pain and discomfort, you can apply ice. You can also book a session with us to assist with pressure garments, gentle massage and assisted movements to maintain your mobility within a safe range of motion.

DOMS can be prevented by taking it slow and building up your training over time. Make sure you cool down after intense workouts and incorporate some eccentric exercises into your routine from time to time. And drink enough water throughout your workout.

Femur Stress Fracture

Stress fractures happen when there is repetitive stress, strain or impact on a bone. These types of injuries are common in sports people or people who do hard labour at work. Pain from a stress fracture of your thigh bone, or femur, will come on gradually and will feel deep, dull and constant. No matter what you do, whether you are resting or active, you will probably feel pain. Stress fractures, especially of the femur, are very serious injuries and need to be treated promptly. If you have thigh pain or suspect a femoral stress fracture, contact us to do a thorough assessment and help determine the reason for your pain. People with stress fractures will require a period of rest.

Just Physio can assist you with pain relief and maintaining your mobility in a safe way. We will also advise you on how to go about your daily life without worsening the injury.

Referred pain


Thigh pain can be coming from structures around your hip, pelvis, lower back or knee. Referred pain is usually vague over a larger area and you might not be able to pinpoint exactly where you feel the pain. This is how we can distinguish referred pain from any other more obvious reasons for your thigh pain.
Referred pain can be caused by muscles, joints, or nerves. Local muscle spasms or trigger points in the buttock muscles can refer pain into your thigh. Referred pain from muscles will cause sharp
shoots of pain into your thigh, especially when you move in a specific way. The pain may then go away when you rest or move in the opposite direction.

Joint pathology can also cause referred pain to distant areas. The joints of your lower back, sacro-iliac joints (back of your pelvis), your hip or knee can make you feel pain in your thigh as well. Generally, you will experience some pain in these areas as well.

Abnormal compression or irritation on nerves will cause a sharp, shooting pain that is often described as feeling like an electrical shock into your leg. Oftentimes, nerve pain will also be accompanied by tingling, burning, pins and needles, numbness or weakness. Nerve injuries are serious, are more difficult to treat and often take longer to treat than other soft tissue injuries. Therefore, make sure to seek help immediately if you suspect nerve injury.

To treat referred pain, we make sure to treat the root cause and not simply your symptoms. With your first session at Just Physio, we will chat to you about how your symptoms came about, how you experience your symptoms on a daily basis etc. We also discuss all other relevant medical and life history such as previous injuries, your occupation and your hobbies. Thereafter we will do various tests, ask you to perform some movements and feel your joints and soft tissues to determine the exact cause for your pain. Our treatments combine what we find during the assessment with your goals. In this way we provide you with the best treatment to ensure you recover fully and live your best life.

Treatment for referred pain from soft tissues may include massage, myofascial release, dry needling, heat, stretches and muscle activation techniques. We may also combine this with joint mobilisations and other exercises if we find that your muscles are tensing up as a result of a problem elsewhere.

Joint pathology can be treated using electrotherapy, ultrasound, joint mobilisations, taping and specific therapeutic exercises.

When referred pain is coming from your nerves, we will first have to relieve the pressure or irritation on that nerve. This can be done using massage, dry needling, joint mobilisations, specific therapeutic exercises and nerve flossing techniques to loosen up the structures around your nerve. For pain, we can apply ice/heat, electrotherapy machines or ultrasound, as well as using manual techniques. Additionally, we may advise you on how you can adapt your daily activities to prevent further irritation of your nerves and teach you positions that may provide relief.

Referred pain is trickier to treat than other obvious causes for pain. However, with only a few sessions with is at Just Physio, you will definitely find relief and be equipped with advice and self-management strategies to prevent similar problems in your future.

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