Pain in the inner thigh can be uncomfortable and may even affect your ability to walk properly. It is mostly caused by muscle strain and should get better within a few days. In some cases, other conditions like a hernia, a blood clot or a back or hip problem can lead to inner thigh pain.
You should see your doctor if the pain is severe, persistent or if you have additional symptoms.
Causes Of Inner Thigh Pain
1. Muscle Strain
A strain is an injury to a muscle or group of muscles. The muscles affected in this case are the adductors. A strain can happen from a sudden run, not warming up before a major activity, not stretching properly or overworking a muscle.
Overworking the thigh muscles can cause a lot of strain and may lead to tightness.
3. Muscle Imbalance
When there is a muscular imbalance, it means that some muscles are weaker than others. When this happens, the stronger ones compensate for the weaker ones, leading to stress and possible injury in the stronger muscles.
4. Osteoarthritis Of The Hip Joint
Osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the surfaces of bones in a joint. The cartilage that allows easy movement of the joints on each other begins to wear off causing inflammation at the joint and direct contact between the bones. This can cause pain to the surrounding structures like the muscles at the upper inner thigh.
5. Back Problems
This can cause pain in the inner thighs. The nerves that supply the thigh adductor muscles are the obturator nerve and the femoral nerve. These nerves arise from the back.
When there is any form of spondylosis or spondylolisthesis around the back, it can affect the transmission of signals to the thigh muscles.
6. Hip Impingement
This is also known as femoroacetabular impingement, a condition where the head of the femur (ball part of the hip joint) and the acetabulum (socket part of the hip joint) come in direct contact with each other. It causes pain that can sometimes be felt at the inner thigh area.
This is when an organ slips out of its location through a weakness in the wall that keeps it in its place. Due to the close proximity of the abdomen to the thigh, there is a tendency of the small intestine to slip out and go through spaces like the inguinal and femoral canals into the groin or inner thigh region. This can cause pain in the upper inner thigh.
8. Blood Clot
Blood clots can be harmful when they occur in major blood vessels in the body. A blood clot located in the femoral vein can cause pain in the inner thigh.
9. Pubic Dysfunction
This usually occurs during pregnancy. The pubic symphysis is a joint that joins the two pelvic bones together. The joint is kept in place by ligaments and plays a major role during childbirth. Pregnancy can place a lot of pressure on the pubic symphysis, making the ligaments slack and cause the joint to become unstable.
This unstable joint can cause pain in the pelvis, affecting the inner thigh.
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty walking or a limping gait
- Joint stiffness
When To See a Doctor
Most times, thigh pain is as a result of muscle strain and may resolve after a few days or after using over-the-counter painkillers.
If the pain is severe or persistent or if you notice other symptoms like swelling, skin discoloration, increased thigh skin temperature or difficulty walking, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Your doctor may recommend some tests to confirm the major cause of pain.
These diagnostic tests include X-ray, CT scan, MRI and sometimes a doppler ultrasound to look out for blood clots.
Depending on the results from these tests, the doctor will treat accordingly.
R.I.C.E. treatment protocol works for muscular injuries. The treatment acronym stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Rest basically means the muscle should be given a break. No unnecessary movement should involve the inner thigh.
Ice can be used to relieve swelling and pain. Crushed ice in a damp towel or an ice pack can be placed on the inner thigh for 15 minutes every 4 hours.
Compression involves applying an elastic bandage on the thigh to reduce swelling that may arise at the inner thigh.
Elevation also helps in reducing swelling by placing the painful leg on pillows or on a high stool to help reduce swelling.
Painkillers like NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs) can help with pain relief. Sometimes, muscle relaxants are recommended for muscle spasms. Blood thinners may be recommended if a blood clot is suspected.
Physiotherapy’s main goal is to relieve pain and ensure no complications arise while recovering from inner thigh pain. Pain can be relieved through the use of ice or heat depending on the cause of the pain and the duration of the injury. Ice is usually used for the first 72 hours from the onset of the injury.
The physiotherapist will assess the thigh, the back, and the entire lower limb as well. This is to confirm if the pain is associated with other parts of the body like a referred pain from the back to the thigh.
After the assessment, the physiotherapist will design treatment plans to achieve your goals. The goals are usually to relieve pain and strengthen the muscles.
Exercises are prescribed by physiotherapists depending on how the pain relief improves and the severity of the injury. Some of these exercises target the adductors and other surrounding muscles. These exercises are:
A curtsy lunge is a curtsy twist to the typical lunge.
- Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet apart
- Take the right foot behind your left foot and outside
- Lunge into this position which will look like a curtsy
- Do this 10 times; 5 on each side
Inner Thigh Squeeze
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and hip-width apart
- Place a ball or a pillow between your bent knees
- Squeeze the pillow between your two knees
- Hold for 30 seconds and release
- Lie on your side with your knees bent and directly on top of each other
- Open your legs like you are opening a book
- Slowly return the raised knee to the starting position
- Repeat 10 times
Hip Abduction To Adduction
- Lie on your side with your knees straight and the affected leg on the unaffected leg
- Raise the top leg, which is the affected leg, towards the ceiling
- Slowly return the leg to its original position
- Returning the leg works on the adductors
- Stand with your feet apart with your toes pointing out to the sides
- Bend your knees and move down towards the ground
- Stand up and repeat 10 times
- Lie on the side of the affected leg with the unaffected leg crossed over it
- Lift the affected leg off the floor as high as you can
- Return to the starting point
This stretches the adductor muscles.
- Stand with your feet apart
- Step out with the unaffected foot as far as you can from the affected foot
- Drop your hips down toward the unaffected foot and feel the stretch in the affected leg
- Repeat 10 times
Surgery is recommended depending on the cause of pain. An inguinal hernia repair is usually performed to treat an inguinal hernia.
- Warm-up and stretch before and after any workout or sporting activity. Warming up prepares the muscles for any activity
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Wear the correct shoes while exercising and doing a sporting activity to avoid muscle overload.
- Drink enough water
- Listen to your body and do not overwork it
- Be more active by reducing your sitting time and moving around more
In most cases, inner thigh pain is usually caused by muscle strain and does not take too long to heal. However, if it is severe or persistent or you notice additional symptoms, see your doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.