When you experience pain only on the outside of your thigh it can be caused by numerous factors and conditions. Outer thigh pain, or lateral leg pain, can be attributed to nerve problems or damage, muscle imbalances and blunt-force trauma. Athletes, especially runners, often complain of lateral thigh pain. Manual therapy techniques, stretching exercises and certain styles of physical therapy are all treatments to which causes of outer thigh pain respond to well.
Causes of Outer Thigh Pain
Outer thigh pain can inhibit your ability to participate in activities you enjoy, but with awareness of injury prevention wisdom and with the proper treatment, you can get back to your favorite activities in a relatively short time. There are a few different kinds of outer thigh pains; each with their own causes, symptoms and treatments.
1. Meralgia Paraesthetica
Meralgia paraesthetica, or burning thigh pain, happens when your LFCN is being compressed due to trauma in the leg like a recent surgery or hip injury. A burning, tingling or numb sensation is experienced as well as sensitivity to touch and groin pain.
Treatment: depending on the source of the pressure on the nerve, treatments vary from resting the hurt leg for an extended period of time to receiving steroid shots to reduce inflammation.
2. Trochanteric Bursitis
Trochanteric Bursitis is different from burning thigh pain in that it affects the bursa sacs between the muscles in the hip, groin and thigh and is caused by prolonged pressure, repeated twisting or rapid joint movements. Limping, swelling and pain the hip and buttock are all symptomatic of Trochanteric Bursitis.
Treatment: rest, ice packs, hip strengthening exercises, over the counter anti-inflammatories, stretching and avoiding long periods of standing are all at home treatments for this kind of thigh pain. If these do not work you may need to see a doctor for some lidocaine, steroid injections or other therapies.
3. Iliotibial Band Syndrome
Inflammation of your iliotibial band, a tissue that runs down the side of your leg, causes Iliotibial Band Syndrome, or ITBS. You may experience pain in the outside area of the knee joint, swelling and discomfort in that area, or snapping and popping sensations in the knee. Endurance athletes are most prone to this kind of thigh pain and they have prolonged pressure on their iliotibial band and knee joints.
Treatment: ice and anti-inflammatory medications are best for treating ITBS. Resting off of the injured leg is also a wise decision and will speed up the healing process. When the acute symptoms are controlled make an effort to increase flexibility so you can avoid further inflammation and discomfort in your iliotibial bands. Muscle contusions vary from ITBS in that they are actual bruises and contusions that appear on the muscles rather than inflammations or squeezing of nerves.
4. Muscle Contusion
Muscle contusion is common among athletes who play high contact sports, like football or rugby. Pain, swelling, tenderness of the skin and discoloration of the skin are common symptoms. Applying ice and elevating the injured leg will help treat the inflammation and alleviate pain. It is also helpful to wrap the area with a soft cloth or bandage to keep slight pressure on it.
Treatment: muscle contusions can also have more severe symptoms like hematomas and reduced range of motion. In severe cases there can be some internal bleeding and even bone fractures. In those cases home treatments will not necessarily work and you should consult a doctor.
5. Other Causes
- Arthritis. Arthritis is a common ailment associated with aging. As we age, the connective tissues in the body begin to wear out. Spinal discs, cartilage and ligaments become thinner and there is less of the body’s natural lubrication present. Bones may be more brittle due to aging as well – resulting in less stability and strength in the joints. This deterioration of the joints leads to inflammation, otherwise known as arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (a disease that affects the joints), leading to pain and loss of mobility.
- Sciatica. Sciatica is a problem that arises due to compression of a spinal nerve root in the lower back. This can be due to muscular imbalance, injury or a slipped disc. The result is excessive pressure on the sciatic nerve, leading to pain (sometimes excruciating) in the buttocks and outer thigh; you may also experience numbness, weakness and “pins and needles” sensations.
- Hip Replacement. Hip replacement and knee replacement can lead to outer thigh pain soon after the surgical procedure is complete. Thankfully, this pain usually decreases within a few days and goes away on its own as the body heals. Note: if severe pain persists for more than a week post-surgery, it could mean complications are present. Please consult your doctor immediately if your pain doesn’t become less intense after a few days.
You can see there are so many reasons that can lead to thigh pain. Hence, if you are suffering from such pain, then it is best to consult a doctor immediately. Persistent pain or pain that goes away and comes back often is also signs that you should seek a medical opinion. If pain is persistent, does not improve or comes back, don’t use over the counter pain medications to mask the pain because you are also masking a more serious condition, seek the advice of a doctor instead.