Outer Thigh Pain Causes and Treatment, Relief

Thighs serve a great purpose in your body. They work to balance and take most of the pressure of your weight. In case you feel any kind of pain especially on the outer thigh, you should seek medical intervention as soon as possible.

Outer thigh pain is also known as lateral pain. It can be brought about by a number of factors such as:

  • nerve damage
  • muscle imbalance
  • injury
  • shock in the thigh due to sudden movement

Outer thigh pain brought about by a nerve damage refers to a medical condition that is technically known as Meralgia paraesthetica. It is a nerve/ neurological condition that causes an area of skin over the upper outer thigh to become painful, numb or tingly.Outer Thigh Pain

It is also called nerve entrapment syndrome. This therefore means it is a collection of symptoms caused by a trapped or compressed nerve. The trapped nerve in question is called the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh (also known as the lateral femoral nerve).

Apart from the nerve effects on pain, the pain on the outer side of the thigh could also result from a particular state or condition in the muscles that constitute the thigh. It can occur at night, while lying down, while running or exercising, depending upon the cause.

What causes outer thigh pain?

Meralgia paraesthetica (outer thigh pain) can, however, be caused by direct injury to the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh accidentally. Various sports and physical activities can be associated with meralgia paraesthetica. These include;

  • Gymnastics
  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • bodybuilding
  • strenuous

To be more precise, the following occurrences are likely to precipitate a condition of severe outer thigh pain.

1. Exercise

Moderate and well-coordinated physical exercise is good and would play a big role in help in reducing outer thigh pain. On the contrary, excessive exercise can lead to pain. This is because it exerts so much unnecessary tension on the femoral nerve. This leads to overstretching of the nerve and hence pain.

Too much exercise could also to tearing of the muscles hence resulting to excruciating pain on the outer side of the thigh.

During exercise, especially if you have specialized in contact sport, then you are likely to get muscle contusion. The contusion causes;

  • Pain
  • discomfort
  • discoloration
  • limited movement of the joints and tenderness.

It is also a muscle injury and it makes the thighs and areas around to be weak and rigid. The end result of this could be internal bleeding or fractures which cause shock.

2. Muscle pull

This is a condition that results from a tear of one or more muscle fibers. The thigh has three sets of muscles:

  • The hamstrings in the back of the thigh
  • The quadriceps in the front
  • The adductor on the inside of the thigh.

The quadriceps and the hamstrings are the ones that are subjected to strains in most cases.

Many strains happen when a muscle is stretched beyond its limit, tearing the muscle fibers. This happens where the muscle joins the tough, fibrous connective tissue of the tendon. A similar case can occur when there is a direct blow or combat on the muscle. The strains in the thigh muscle cause very high degree of pain.

Very importantly, muscles in your thigh run from your pelvis along the outer thigh to your lower leg bone. Other muscles run from the pelvis to your upper thigh bone. The muscles in this area move your leg out to the side. A strain to these muscles can take place very fast when they are overstretched or develop slowly from being overused or weakness. Strains cause dull aching pain that increases when you stand on the affected leg.

There are other factors that can bring about muscle pull and they include:

  • Not warming up well before exercise/physical activity
  • Poor flexibility
  • Poor conditioning
  • Overexertion and fatigue

Pain due muscle injury is likely to recur because muscle injuries and strains are likely to occur often after the initial one. It is therefore prudent to allow a muscle to heal properly before normal function. The healing process should follow guidelines from your doctor.

3. Fatigue

According WebMD, fatigue refers to the state where there is a feeling of tiredness or exhaustion or a need to rest due to lack of energy. It may result from;

  • Overwork
  • poor sleep
  • worry
  • boredom
  • lack of exercise

It is a symptom that may be caused by illness, medicines or medical treatment like chemotherapy. Similarly, this condition can be brought about by depression and anxiety.

The pain brought about a fatigued thigh muscle is called neurogenic claudication. It is normally a symptom of the inflammation of the nerves originating from the spinal cord. It is brought about by spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).

The narrowing is generally brought about by wear and tear and arthritic changes in the lower spine. The changes include;

  • bulging discs
  • thickening of ligaments
  • Overgrowths of bone spurs.

Stenosis can compress the nerves that control the sensation of movement in the lower body. This compression causes pain, tingling and cramping. The pain is usually worse when standing or walking. This is because in an upright posture, the spinal cord naturally narrows placing more pressure on the nerve roots.

4. Swelling

The swelling of tissue in the body is called inflammation. This can result from injury or an underlying disease condition. Either injury or disease can cause inflammation and in the long run lead to acute or chronic pain. Swelling or inflammation can be viewed differently depending on the part that is affected.

·  Bursitis:

Bursae are basically fluid filled sacs that are found in the various areas of high friction in the body like the areas where the muscle tendons slide over one another or a bone. The sacs reduce friction and provide cushions in many parts of the body.

Inflammation of these sacs or hip bursitis leads to pain in the upper, outer thigh where your thigh bone protrudes. You will experience sharp pain when you engage in some activities or when the area is touched or when you stand from a seated position.

·  Trochanteric bursitis:

The pain may also be felt when there is injury that leads to inflammation to the tissues that lie over the greater trochanter of the femur. This is a bony prominence near the head of the femur (thigh bone). The injury leading to inflammation can be due to pressure or rapid movement of the hip joint. Majorly seen in athletes where the joint is associated with rapid movement.

·  Iliotibial band syndrome:

The swelling of your Iliotibial band (a tissue that runs down the side of your leg) leads to Iliotibial band syndrome. Endurance athletes are subject to this kind of thigh pain since they have prolonged pressure on their Iliotibial band and knee joints.

5. Overstretching

Fibers of the thigh can only stretch or extend up to a particular extent. Any effort to exceed the limit comes with a lot of pain borne. This is because there is likelihood of a strain. This should prompt you to stop the activity and instead begin treatment option for the muscle.

According to healthline.com, an overstretched muscle goes as far as leading to a strained or a pulled muscle. This normally takes place when you are fatigued, you overuse your muscle or you improperly use your muscle.

The strains may cause pain and may limit movement within the affected muscle group. Mild to moderate strains could be treated at home with ice, heat and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe strains or tear may require special medical treatment.Outer Thigh Pain

Outer thigh pain at night

Improper blood circulation, lipoma, bursitis and septic arthritis are some of the most common causes behind thigh pain at night. The pain can be mild to severe depending upon the cause behind the pain. Therefore, it is very important to get the reason diagnosed in the initial stage. The following are the possible causes of outer thigh pain at night:

  • First of all occurrence of lipoma in the thigh causes mild to severe thigh pain at night.
  • Apart from that, improper supply of blood in the thigh muscles, which may be a result of blocked arteries, can cause cramps and pain in the thigh muscles. This because the muscles are improperly perfused.
  • Bursa inflammation is also a precipitant of pain at night. Due to various reasons like gout, trauma, rheumatoid arthritis, overuse, etc., the bursa becomes inflamed and tender. This condition is known as bursitis. The bursa present near the thigh may also undergo this problem.
  • One of the possible causes of thigh pain in children is a cancerous tumor called Ewing’s sarcoma. It mostly affects kids between 9-14 years of age.
  • Many people get thigh pain after hip replacement surgery. This is mainly because of implantation of a stiff implant in the hip bone during the surgery, which eventually causes thigh pain when sitting, walking or even while sleeping.
  • Infection in the bone also known as osteomyelitis, usually affects the long bones like one in the thigh. This condition may result pain, fever, swelling, redness, etc.
  • Septic arthritis can be caused due to the bacterial infection which attack the joints. If the hip joints get infection, it results in severe pain which radiates into thigh muscles and groin.
  • Thigh bone, being a long bone is prone to osteosarcoma, a type of cancer. This is one of the common thigh pain causes at night.
  • During pregnancy, the expectant mother’s body undergoes various structural and hormonal changes. These changes may result in edema, symphysis pubis dysfunction and round ligament. This could lead to painful episodes at night.
  • Medications like birth control pills, hormonal contraceptives, high blood pressure medication, etc., may also trigger thigh pain.
  • Exercise or regress routine without a proper warm up routine may cause strain. Which may be accompanied by sharp pain and numbness.

When you experience the following symptoms, you should be aware that they could lead to pain at night:

  • Sharp pain in the outer side of the thigh and knees.
  • Pain in the groin area that gradually radiates to the buttocks.
  • Stiffness or lack of sensation in the thighs at night.
  • Burning sensation in the thighs on turning position while lying on bed.

Fever, swelling, redness, formation of pus, etc. are some of the other accompanied symptoms of thigh pain.

Outer and side thigh pain when lying down

The pain that you are likely to experience when lying down is called ischemic rest pain. Ischemia is a medical term that refers to insufficient blood to the tissues. When lying down, you are likely to exert a lot of pressure on the blood vessels and nerves that serve the outer side of the thigh.

Apart from pressure, a clot or plaque in blood may also cause insufficient supply of blood to tissues. This goes ahead to bring about ischemia. The end result of this is episodes of sharp pain experienced when you lie down.

In return this leads to inhibited blood flow to reach these tissues. The lack of blood prevents them from working properly and therefore results in a lot of pain at the end. Hip bursitis for instance, is greatly increased when one lies on the affected side.

On the contrary, lying down can at times act as relief to some aspect of pain. This works very well for meralgia paraesthetica. Usually, the symptoms of this pain are increased by walking or standing for long periods. Lying down goes a long way to remedy this.

Outer thigh pain after sitting

A variety of conditions can lead to leg pain that is aggravated by sitting. These include;

  • Disc erosion, tightening of the piriformis muscle due to imbalances in the hip rotator muscles
  • Sciatic nerve impingement, also called sciatica
  • Pain from nerve injury (neuropathy).

When your outer thigh hurts as you stand after running and after sitting, you may have one of two common conditions namely Iliotibial band syndrome and meralgia paraesthetica. Iliotibial band syndrome is the irritation and inflammation of a large tendon in your thigh. Meralgia paraesthetica is a pinched nerve in the thigh. Both can be caused by the overuse of your legs during running or sitting for long.

Hip injury and weight gain also can cause compression on the nerve. The compression from long periods of sitting results in meralgia paraesthetica, which brings on pain and burning in the outer thigh. Always seek a faster diagnosis and medical intervention as soon as this occurs.

Relief and treatment for outer thigh pain

The relief approaches to reduce severity of outer thigh pain include both home remedies as well as treatments in case of disease conditions and states. The following approaches are very effective and work very well:

  • Adequate rest: Patient suffering from pain in upper outer side of thigh need to rest. Especially those who play sports.
  • Wear lose fitting clothes. It reduces pressure on the nerve. The pain vanishes after few days.
  • If you are overweight, try to reduce your weight.
  • If you are have diabetes, you should control your blood sugar. Eat foods that are rich in multivitamins and minerals.
  • Over the counter medications: Pain may alleviate for time being after taking over the counter medications anti-inflammatory and painkillers. However, you have to search for the root cause. Unless the cause is addressed pain may come again.
  • Apart from that, muscle stretching exercises is also beneficial in dealing with pain on outer thigh if the underlying cause is muscle damage.

Regarding treatments, outer thigh pain can be treated with symptomatic medication but, often times, it is just as important to treat the underlying condition. If the underlying condition is properly treated, the outer thigh pain will go away as well. The disease conditions that cause outer thigh pain below are outlined with their possible treatments.

Greater trochanteric pain syndrome

  • Ice pack applications
  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diet – Weight loss improves symptoms of the condition
  • Corticosteroids – oral/topical administration (injection). They should not to be administered for prolonged periods of time, as they have serious side-effects
  • Physiotherapy – Exercise program for pain relief, increasing range of movement and muscle strengthening

Meralgia paraesthetica

  • Refrain from physical activity – this condition is aggravated by movement
  • Diet – weight loss
  • Physical therapy
  • Exercise program
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Corticosteroids – oral/topical administration (injections)
  • Direct injection into the lateral cutaneous nerve – improvement of symptoms, reduction of inflammation
  • Other medication (pain killing effect)
  • Anti-depressants
  • Anticonvulsant drugs

Muscle strain/pull

  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Cold pack application
  • Rest
  • Avoid standing on the affected leg
  • Physiotherapy


  • Massage
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Relieve pain

Spinal nerve compression

  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen/Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Physiotherapy
  • Mobilization and pain reduction
  • Surgery
  • Nerve decompression
  • Surgery for herniated or slipped disc

Iliotibial band syndrome

  • Cold/ice pack applications
  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Rest


  • Rest
  • Avoid standing on the affected leg – better to keep it elevated
  • Ice pack applications
  • Anti-inflammatory medication – pain relief
  • Acetaminophen
  • Ibuprofen
  • Physiotherapy
  • Exercise program to strengthen hip muscles
  • Corticosteroid injections

Muscle contusion

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Surgery in case of internal bleeding/additional bone fracture.


  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Corticosteroids
  • If rheumatic, then anti-rheumatic drugs are recommended (Methotrexate)
  • Physiotherapy and occupational therapy
  • Corticosteroids and hyaluronic acid injections
  • Joint replacement surgery.


  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Corticosteroids
  • Physiotherapy
  • Surgery for nerve decompression

Outer thigh pain stretches

Tension in the thighs causes pain there, and you might experience back pain as a result of the tight muscles pulling on the pelvis. Tight hamstrings on the rear of the thigh are particularly a potential problem for lower back pain, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Gentle stretching releases tension and helps heal muscle strains in the front, back, inside and outside areas of the thighs.

The stretches are done to help release tension in the affected muscles namely the hamstrings and the quadriceps.

  • Hamstring stretch

The hamstring muscles on the back of your thigh connect from the back of the pelvis to the back of the knee. When the hamstrings are tight, they shorten and pull on the knee and pelvis. To stretch the hamstrings, you must straighten your knee and flex the hip because this is the opposite of what the hamstrings muscles do. The hamstrings bend the knee and extend the hip backwards. One stretch for the hamstrings then is the stool hamstring stretch.


  1. Place one heel on a stool and stand with both legs straight.
  2. Then, lean forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the hamstring of the leg on the stool.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
  • Quadriceps stretch

Tight quadricep muscles on the front of the thigh not only causes pain in the thighs, it also may contribute to sway back. Sway back is when your lower back flattens instead of maintaining a neutral curve. This incorrect alignment can cause pain and issues in the spine and pelvis.


  1. You have to bend the knee because the quads extend the knee when contracted.
  2. To stretch your right quad, stand with your left leg straight on bend your right knee backwards.
  3. Grab your toes or ankle and pull your right foot toward your buttocks.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.

Reference and Sources

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