Thigh Pain

Thigh injuries are separated into front thigh, back of the thigh and groin pain. Most thigh injuries are sudden onset (acute) such as a thigh strain, groin strain or hamstring strain, but thigh pain can also be chronic (occur gradually over time). This is especially likely if an acute injury has not been treated correctly or failed to heal properly. If you have suffered a sudden onset thigh injury we explain how to apply emergency first aid in the form of ice or cold therapy as well as when to seek professional advice.

Thigh pain when should I see a doctor?

It is very rare that thigh injuries need to seen by a doctor as most are muscular injuries that will heal given the appropriate treatment and rest. However, there are certain circumstances and conditions in which case it is a good idea to seek medical advice.

First Aid for thigh injuries

The PRICE principles are the gold standard set for treating sports injuries.  The acronym stands for Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation and should be applied as early as possible and continued for at least the first 24-72 hours.

Pain at the back of the thigh is known as posterior thigh pain and can be acute or sudden onset, or they may be chronic and develop gradually over time. It may also develop following an acute injury which fails to heal properly. The most common is a hamstring strain.

Hamstring strain

A pulled hamstring is probably the most common cause of pain at the back of the thigh.  It is a tear (strain) to one of the three hamstring muscles. Symptoms consist of a sudden sharp pain at the back of the thigh which can range from a slight twinge to a severe grade 2 or 3 tear requiring immediate specialist attention. In most cases the player or athlete will not be able to continue and will be forced to stop. A hamstring strain is not an injury you can run off. Immediate first aid includes applying cold therapy and compression. Read more about the treatment and rehabilitation of hamstring strains.


Cramp is an involuntary contraction of the muscle that often comes on late in a demanding training session or game, or can occur much later after exercise or at night. A painful contraction of the hamstring muscles at the back of the thigh occurs with the athlete having difficulty in straightening the knee. Immediate treatment aims are to stretch the muscles gently to release the spasm. Read more on causes, treatment of cramp in the hamstring muscle.

Referred pain

Referred pain is caused or originates from a problem elsewhere in the body but with symptoms that appear or radiate into the back of the upper leg. The pain may originate from the lower back, sacroiliac joints or muscles of the buttocks such as the gluteus maximus and piriformis muscle. Read more about symptoms and treatment of symptoms and treatment of referred pain

Anterior thigh pain or injuries at the front of the thigh. An acute thigh injury comes on suddenly and includes muscle strains (tears) or contutions which are caused my direct impact or collision. Chronic or gradual onset pain at the front of the thigh occurs over time. The athlete may not be able to identify a specific moment the injury was caused.

Thigh strain

A thigh strain or quadriceps strain is a tear in one of the quadriceps muscles at the front of the thigh. Thigh strains are graded 1 to 3 depending on how bad the injury is with a grade 1 being mild and a grade 3 involving a complete or near complete tear of the muscle. Symptoms of thigh strain typically include a sudden sharp pain at the front of the thigh. Read more on the treatment and rehabilitation of treatment and rehabilitation of thigh strain.

Thigh contusion

Thigh contusion also know as a dead leg or charley horse is a bruise to the muscle caused by impact when muscle is crushed against the thigh bone. Contusion can range in severity from very mild which is hardly noticeable at the time to severe disabling injuries where the athlete is unable to walk. Read more on treatment for thigh contusions.

Myositis ossificans

Myositis ossificans is a small growth of bone within the muscle that may occur if a bad muscle strain or contusion is neglected. It can develop some time after a contusion or blow to a muscle usually in the thigh. Symptoms include pain in the muscle during exercise. Read more on treatment for treatment for myositis ossificans.

Fractures to the thigh bone or fremur bone are not common but can be difficult to treat and recover from. A stress fracture develops over time and an acute fracture occurs from sudden trauma or accident.