What are the Most Common Causes of Upper Leg Pain?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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The most common causes of upper leg pain are hamstring injury, thigh injury, and overuse. In addition, upper leg pain can be caused by injuries to the sciatic nerve, a pulled muscle, and referred pain from the hip. Treatment regimens for upper leg pain is based on the cause. For example, pain related to sciatic nerve injury includes rest and pain medication. Upper leg pain related to a hamstring injury is often relieved by alternating hot and cold packs, temporarily resting the leg and taking anti-inflammatory medications.

Often, upper leg pain is temporary, and the cause is sometimes never determined. In these cases, no further treatment is usually indicated. When upper leg pain becomes severe and intrudes with activities of daily living, however, further medical evaluation is recommended.

Diagnostic tests to determine the cause of upper leg pain include traditional x-rays, CAT scans, or MRI evaluation. When no cause can be identified, chronic upper leg or thigh pain might benefit from physical therapy. The physical therapist can recommend a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles of the leg and surrounding structures to help reduce pain and weakness.


Sometimes when pain is severe, pain relievers may be prescribed. Alternative methods to pain relief medication include massaging the leg muscles and walking. Although pain can be significant, it is generally not recommended to limit the use of the legs by staying in bed, because muscles can soon atrophy, causing weakness and decline in range of motion.

The physician can recommend a moderate exercise program based on the results of his examination that can offer pain relief, while improving mobility. Sometimes disc problems in the back can cause upper leg pain. In these cases, surgery is sometimes indicated, however, there is no guarantee that surgery will permanently resolve pain or restore mobility.

Sometimes, hip pain can migrate to the upper leg causing the individual to believe that the pain is originating from the thigh area. This is precisely why a thorough medical history and examination is important when trying to determine the cause. Until the cause and origination of the pain is determined, a treatment plan cannot effectively be planned out.

When upper leg discomfort is experienced in small children, it is often thought to be attributed to "growing pains." In many cases this is true, but, parents should take children to a doctor if they suffer persistent leg pain, regardless of location, especially when severe or disabling. An evaluation can rule out serious medical conditions.



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