How to Fix Upper Thigh Pain when Walking
Discomfort in the upper thigh region can prove to be a nightmare, you've just gone out and bought a pair of new walking boots, and then boom! The pain train arrives!
Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast who can’t miss their gym sessions or a couch potato who spends the whole day lazing around the house, this is a common problem that many people experience.
This might come about gradually or suddenly and while it is usually not a cause for alarm, persistent pain in your upper thing might signify a more serious underlying condition.So, what causes your upper thigh to ache?
Well, many situations may lead to this; some borne out of age and others out of injury. More importantly, you should know how to diagnose this condition in its early stages and treat it before it gets out of hand.
In this article, we will consider the various issues that may spell trouble to your upper thigh and the subsequent symptoms associated with them.
We will also consider different treatment options for your upper thigh pain when walking.
As a quick aside, one effective way to deal with upper thigh pain is to take ice baths such as the arcticdry portable ice bath
Thigh Anatomy: The Basics
Anatomically speaking, the thigh refers to the region of your upper leg between your knee and your hip joint. This area is filled with multiple muscles, tendons, and ligaments and that is why upper thigh pain can be difficult to diagnose.
To be more specific, the thigh encompasses:
Quadriceps muscles located at the front of your thigh that aid in bending your hip or straightening your knee
Groin muscles located on your thighs inner that help to pull your leg in
Hamstring muscles at the back that allow bending of your knee
Hip muscles such as gluteus medius that pull your thigh out and to the side
Multiple nerve endings going down the thigh
Symptoms of Thigh Pain
Thigh pain can greatly affect your normal body functionality and limit routine activities such as walking, running, or even going up the staircase. The pain may range from a minor ache to a sharp-shooting sensation. However, other symptoms that may precede or accompany the pain include:
Difficulty in walking
Usually when the pain comes on suddenly, it may fade with routine home treatments such as rest, heat therapy, or covering with an ice pack.
However, if the pain is persistent despite all these treatments, you should be concerned and possibly seek professional medical assistance.
Causes Of Upper Thigh Pain When Walking?
numerous conditions will distress your upper thigh. Some may be obvious such as in old people but this can also happen to the fittest of individuals, leaving you speculating what the cause may be.
The first step to properly and accurately treating your upper thigh pain when walking is to understand the source of the problem. Some of the common causes behind your troubled walk include:
Muscle Sprain/ Strain
A muscle sprain is a common phenomenon that can affect you due to things such as strenuous physical activity. It refers to an overstretched or torn ligament (connects a bone with another bone).
On the other hand, a strain is a torn/overstretched tendon or muscle. The tendons in the body connect muscles to the bone.
In both cases, the symptoms may include soreness that radiates in different directions, inflammation of the affected region, difficulty in stretching or moving your thigh, sudden pain after a workout.
These are injuries that occur when you work a muscle in or around the thigh too hard and too long, taking it beyond its limit. This is also possible when a person goes straight into playing sports without warming up.
This pain tends to worsen over time and will be evident when you decide to rest the injured region.The main symptom of overuse injury is pain that comes following an exercise session or intense physical workout (it may affect both thighs).
If you happen to go through a traumatic event whereby your thigh suffers a blow such as an accident, this may lead to pain. The cause here is relatively obvious and you’d expect your thigh to hurt when you're on the receiving end of a physical trauma.
The symptoms include soreness on the front or back of the thigh that typically gets worse when you try to perform an activity. You may be bruised and the pain is normally intermittent & keeps on coming and going depending on your level of activity.
Quadriceps or Hamstring Tendonitis
Repeated use and overuse may cause a lot of stress on your thigh muscles, leading to inflammation in your tendons. This results in a condition referred to as Tendonitis. This is defined by symptoms such as difficulty in climbing stairs, thigh pain at the back or front near the knee, or a weak feeling in your thigh muscles.
Generally, the symptoms will persist for a period of between four to six weeks. Luckily, it gets better gradually over time, especially with gentle exercise.
Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome
The iliotibial band is a dense piece of fascia and tissue that flows down the outer side of the thigh. In some cases, the band may be irritated by either overuse or recurring stress to it, a common running injury that is also known as ITBS (Iliotibial Band Friction Syndrome).
The symptoms here include a feeling of tightness near your knee or hip, difficulty in walking or running, and pain on the outer thigh near your hip.The resulting pain will usually worsen with increased activity but subside with appropriate rest. Physical therapy such as stretching and strengthening workout drills will relieve this kind of pain.
Greater Trochanteric Syndrome
Greater Trochanteric Syndrome can cause you to experience pain in the outer region of your thighs. It is generally caused by pressure, injury, or repetitive movement and more common among runners and women. The common symptoms include:
Pain that gets worse with time
Hip muscle weakness
Increased pain when you sleep on the affected side
Pain after strenuous activities like running or walking
Treating this condition may require you to adjust your lifestyle and embrace weight loss, start doing physical therapy, treatment with ice, anti-inflammatory medication, or even steroid injections.
You may also experience thigh pain as a result of the nerves around that region. Nerve pain comes about when there is some sort of damage to the nerves. This can end up in a feeling of pain despite there not being any physical injury. Some of the different types of nerve pain are as follows:
Peripheral neuropathy is essentially nerve damage that will cause you nerve pain.
It usually happens due to conditions like diabetes and is signified by unusual sensations in the thigh area and other places. This will include things such as numbness, burning, and sharp pain.
Meralgia paresthetica is brought about by pressure on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This condition may result in numbness, tingling, and shooting pain in the outer side of your thigh. Usually, it affects one side of the body and happens as a result of compression of the nerve. Some causes of meralgia paresthetica are:
Scar tissue from past surgery or injury
Obesity or being overweight
Carrying your wallet on the side or front pant pockets
Treating this condition will require identifying the underlying cause before taking appropriate measures such as losing weight or wearing loose attire to alleviate the pressure. You can also do some exercise to ease muscle tension and enhance strength and flexibility.
In some cases, prescription drugs and surgery may become necessary!
Sciatica can be a very painful and debilitating condition. The sciatica nerve is situated in the lower back and spreads down to the thighs, as well as legs. Any irritation or injury to the sciatic nerve will end up in a radiating pain that may descend to the upper thighs and further to the legs.
If you suspect there is damage to your sciatica nerve, make sure you see a professional for an MRI scan.The treatment here typically involves anti-inflammatory medication, muscle relaxant, physical therapy, and if necessary, surgery.
Pinched Spinal Nerve
The nudging pain in your upper thigh may also be the consequence of a pinched spinal nerve. Lower back arthritis or herniated lumbar discs may pinch on the nerves exiting your spinal column as they travel down your thigh. Some of the signs of a pinched nerve can include:
Difficulty sitting or standing up
Thigh muscle weakness
Soreness in the front or back of the thigh
Tingling or numbness in your thigh
A pinched nerve will usually lead to thigh pain and this may change depending on the position of your spine. This will, therefore, be a good pointer to the physician that low back arthritis is what’s causing your thigh pain.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Stenosis is a medical term that defines any form of narrowing. Lumbar spinal stenosis may occur along the spine as a consequence of the vertebrae, disks between them, or supporting structures intruding the spinal canal holding the spinal cord and nerve roots branching off it.
The pain results from the mechanical pressure and also from the squeezing off of blood circulation to the nerves. The spine’s lumbar region encompasses five large vertebrae that make the small of the back. Usually, when you are affected by spinal stenosis in the lumbar region, the legs are mostly affected although you may experience some lower back pain.
The pain is not very different from the pain as a result of peripheral artery disease and includes symptoms like a cramping tightness that worsens when you walk.Nevertheless, it is felt in the thigh as opposed to the calf. The symptom may also spread to the legs, making them weak and numb.
At first, the pain in the leg resulting from lumbar stenosis was referred to as pseudoclaudication since it was not associated with blocked arteries. Doctors didn’t assume that it could be caused by spinal problems. Today, the preferred medical term is neurogenic circulation.
Diagnosing this condition will require an assessment of the symptoms and your medical history. A reliable clue could be that pain eases when you curve or flex your back. This posture tends to ease the pressure of the lumbar area and this is why some individuals suffering from lumbar spinal stenosis are more comfortable when they lean while walking.
A CT or MRI scan will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis but imaging studies should not be relied upon to make an accurate diagnosis.Meanwhile, treatment will typically encompass physical therapy with a view of strengthening the abdominal and back muscles.
You may also turn to pain relievers while an increasing number of aging patients are being administered with corticosteroid injections into the spine.
Causes Associated with Blood
Disruption of normal blood flow and other situations in the blood vessels in the thigh area may also cause upper thigh pain when walking. Some of these conditions include:
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease is a form of atherosclerosis, a condition that mostly ends up in strokes and heart attacks. Cholesterol-filled plaque and fat accumulation usually narrow arteries and blood clots may collect on the plaque, causing the arteries to narrow further.
When it comes to peripheral artery disease, atherosclerosis tends to affect the arteries supplying blood to the leg muscles. The risks involved are not different from those of stroke and heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.
The common symptom of peripheral artery disease is a tight pain that you can feel in the muscles beneath the narrowed artery.It can also occur on your bottom side, thigh, or foot. However, it mostly occurs in the calf. This pain will keep on increasing as you walk but subside when you rest.
Just like in “angina”, the pain caused by peripheral artery disease is a result of muscle cells that have been starved of oxygen due to inhibited flow of blood. The medical term used for this kind of pain is intermittent claudication, which in Latin means “limping”.
The implication is that your legs feel heavy and tend to tire easily. For people experiencing this, it is common to cut back on your routine activities without even realising it. This is another factor that conceals the problem. The symptoms of peripheral artery disease may include:
Bruises and scratches in the lower leg that doesn’t seem to heal
Diminished pulse under the narrowed artery
Cool and pale skin
The diagnosis will depend on the ankle-brachial index. This compares the blood pressure in the arm with that in the ankle. Ordinarily, the two are supposed to be the same but in case of a blockage in the leg, the pressure below the ankle will be lower as a result of the reduced blood flow.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis is a blood clot that usually occurs in the lower leg. However, it may also form on the upper thigh, causing you pain, inflammation, tenderness, warm sensation, and bluish discoloration.
The problem with DVT is that it can sometimes break off and find its way to the lungs and heart, ending up in pulmonary embolism, shortness of breath, a rapid pulse, dizziness, coughing up blood, chest pain, etc.
Some of the things that may lead to the DVT are birth control, estrogen medication, vein injury, smoking, surgery, pregnancy, family history, etc.Treatment involves the administration of warfarin and heparin prescription blood thinners. The symptoms include:
Pain during walking
Swelling and redness of the leg vein
Tenderness in the affected area
Persistent leg pain
Shortness of breath
People suffering from diabetes are usually prone to nerve damage, also known as neuropathy, although the actual cause is not known. A high level of blood sugar may damage the small blood vessels supplying blood to the nerves, leading to what is known as “nerve strokes”.
Diabetes may sometimes deplete the body’s neurotrophic peptides reserves; these are chemicals that serve to repair, as well as regenerate nervous tissue.This condition affects the lower and upper legs differently. In the lower leg and feet, the symptoms usually involve tingling or numbness and feel almost the same in both legs.
The numbness will typically dull the painful sensation, meaning that sores on the foot will go unnoticed but still get worse. In the upper leg, the pain occurs suddenly and may be felt in only one leg.
Diabetic neuropathy may make walking difficult for you, although the condition can be improved by regular exercise.
To keep diabetic neuropathy at bay, try to keep your blood sugar down. This is because once the nerve has been damaged, tight blood sugar control does little to remedy the situation. Pain killers, tricyclic antidepressants, and anticonvulsants have been used to manage the tingling and burning sensations caused by neuropathy.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency
Just like the peripheral artery disease discussed above, chronic venous insufficiency stems from poor blood circulation but involves the blood’s return trip to the lungs and heart. Arteries help to propel blood along but veins tend to be relatively passive participants in the circulatory process.
This is especially true in the legs where the veins surrounding the muscles play the role of pumping blood from the vessels close to the surface to the deeper ones that move towards the heart. The tiny valves found inside the veins serve to even out the pressure so that there is no backflow of blood.
For people with chronic venous insufficiency syndrome, the valves are usually damaged and the blood tends to collect in the legs and feet as opposed to traveling towards the heart. When the valves stop working, blood pressure in the veins increases, causing the vessels to stretch out. This implies that the veins won’t close properly and the blood will flow back, adding pressure.
The symptoms here include inflammation of the skin, open wounds on the bony areas of the ankle, swelling of the connective tissue under the skin, etc.While walking, you may feel a tight pain, usually in the thigh and groin region. The pain will subside when you take a rest, although it will require more time to heal compared to peripheral artery disease.
If you are suffering from a minor case of chronic venous inefficiency, lying on your back with your legs elevated on a pillow may be of significant help. This way, the blood can flow downwards to the heart more easily. If you spend most of your day sitting, try to move your toes up and down constantly to flex the vein-pumping muscles in the leg.
On the other hand, chronic cases should be treated with compression stockings, which squeeze the ankle harder than the knee. However, most people tend to avoid them because they are so tight. Some people may cover their skin with talcum powder or put on thing stockings to ease the tightness.
Generally, there is no designated medication for venous inefficiency.
However, surgical procedures to remedy the condition have seen an advancement over the years.Furthermore, the current varicose vein therapy no longer involves the medieval saphenous vein stripping.
Upper thigh pain when walking is often caused from leading too much of a sedentary lifestyle. Spending too much time on the couch and failing to put in some exercise for a long time can also damage muscles, leading to chronic pain. This is because staying in a seated position for extended periods can exert undue pressure on the muscles and joints in the legs and hips.
A lack of activity may further cause these muscles to weaken and trigger widespread muscle soreness. People who experience pain in their upper thigh because of their relatively sedentary lifestyle may also notice the pain spreading throughout the body. Sometimes, the intensity of the pain may change as time goes.
Radiating Pain from Other Injuries
Sometimes pain as a result of an injury on adjacent areas can spread to your upper thigh. Additionally, some injuries may alter your normal way of walking, causing you to stiffen the thigh muscles without even noticing.
This can lead to pain in the legs and thighs and the pain may persist if you don’t remedy the situation. So, if you sustained an injury on nearby areas such as the hips or knees, this may easily be the cause of the upper thigh pain when walking.
Upper Thigh Pain Diagnosis
no one test can conclusively diagnose the cause of your upper thigh pain. This will call for a series of processes that start with the examination of the affected area.
When you go to a physician, he will likely ask about your full medical history, as well as any recent injuries you might have experienced. But if there is no obvious course after the assessment, the following possible diagnostic tests may be conducted:
Ultrasound imaging to see if there are any blood clots
X-rays to examine the bones
Blood tests to check for conditions like arthritis
Nerve tests like electromyography and nerve conduction tests
Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Computed Tomography scans to assess the muscles
Joint aspiration- Extracting fluid from a joint to identify any existing joint issues
Treatment of Upper Thigh Pain When Walking
The right treatment for your thigh will only happen if the right diagnosis is made and the exact cause for your condition identified. However, you should note that some conditions leading to upper thigh pain are emergencies that require immediate medical attention.
For instance, if you’re getting the pain because of a blood clot, you should rush to the doctor ASAP. The treatment here will involve anti-embolism care, as well as blood-thinning medication to manage the condition.
Luckily, most of the conditions behind upper thigh pain can be managed successfully without seeing a physician. Depending on the cause and severity of the pain you’re feeling, the following are possible treatment options you may apply:
Exercise is a proven treatment to thigh pain originating from the muscles and bones. If you feel the pain coming from the back, try doing lumbar stretches and other strengthening exercises to ease the pressure off the spinal nerves. This may also mean that you perform some postural correction workouts.
Elsewhere, thigh pain from a hamstring or quad strain may respond well to strengthening and stretching exercises. You can consult any physical therapist in your locality for the best stretches relevant to your condition.
Finally, exercising will enable you to maintain the appropriate body mass and weight index. This will go a long way to relieve the pain you’re feeling and even prevent it from happening again.
The doctor may also prescribe to you some drugs to treat the pain based on the diagnosis he makes. If the soreness is caused by an inflammatory condition like an acute strain or tendonitis, the medical practitioner will likely advise you to take anti-inflammatory drugs.
Analgesic medication is another option that may be used to alleviate the pain.A prescription-strength analgesic will come in handy for severe pain whereas mild symptoms may be treated over-the-counter with drugs such as acetaminophen.
several self-care remedies will help to ease your upper thigh pain when walking. The advantage here that these can be administered right at home and they are mostly applicable when the pain is mild. The common treatments are:
Applying heat to the sore area on your thigh may assist in reducing the pain. Heat also serves to boost the circulation of blood to the paining areas, helping to supply nutrients that bring about healing. To do this, expose the affected area to heat for about 15 minutes, but care should be taken not to burn yourself.
Ice is mostly used when the affected area is inflamed. For swollen muscles or tendons wrap a pack of ice on the thigh for at least 10 minutes several times in a day. However, you want to watch out for frost burns when applying this treatment option.
If, for instance, the pain is a consequence of a pinched spinal nerve, then a visit to a physical therapist or chiropractor may work wonders for you. These professionals have their ways of releasing the pressure off the pinched nerve to restore normal mobility and eliminate the pain.
Massage Therapy/ Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a traditional method used by the Chinese to release pressure off tight muscles in the body. It involves placing needles at specific points of the body and the method is usually administered by a licensed professional.
Massage therapy is another alternative that helps to ease the tension in your body and boost the general blood circulation.As the blood starts to flow uninterrupted, the pain gradually recedes.
Different domestic remedies for upper thigh pain of muscular origin have been used for a while know. One of them is the application of creams such as BenGray, Biofreeze, as well as arnica gel. Although these creams will only provide temporary pain relief, they are not necessarily a treatment for the underlying conditions causing you pain.
If you choose to use a cream to stop the pain, ensure that you also see a doctor first to get relevant advice on the right care for the condition in question.
Knowing the different underlying causes of upper thigh pain when walking is critical to stopping it from going forward. However, you can ensure that it doesn’t get to this point by taking a variety of preventive measures.
In the case of DVT, a nice prevention strategy includes wearing compression stockings or taking prescription medication. Other measures will require a complete overhaul of your lifestyle and consist of:
Adopting a weight loss regimen
Incorporating stretching exercises into your daily schedule
Eating healthy meals
Outlook of Upper Thigh Pain
More often than not, upper thigh pain shouldn’t give you sleepless nights. It is a condition that can be treated at home using methods such as applying ice or heat, physical activity, as well as OTC medicines. However, if you notice more serious symptoms alongside the thigh pain, make haste and see a doctor!
The last thing you want to deal with is upper thigh pain when walking. It can significantly mess up your daily schedule and interfere with your ability to be productive. The article above gives you deep insight into the various causes of thigh pain and the different measures you can take to arrest the situation before things get critical!