Referred Pain (Thigh)
Injuries > Thigh > Referred Pain
What is referred pain?
Referred pain is a term given to pain that is felt in one region of the body although it originates from another. This is commonly seen in clinical practice.
There are several structures in the body that, when injured, may cause the patient to experience pain in the thigh. This can occur even though there may be nothing wrong with the thigh itself.
Causes of referred pain to the thigh
The lower back, hip and sacroiliac joint are the most common areas of the body that, when injured, may cause referred pain to the thigh (figure 1). In addition, increased neural tension (tight nerves) may also contribute to the development of symptoms.
Some of the more common conditions which may cause these symptoms include:
- Lumbar Disc Bulge
- Lumbar Facet Joint Sprain
- Spinal Degeneration (Lumbar)
- Piriformis Syndrome
- Hip Arthritis
- Labral Tear of the Hip
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Signs and symptoms of referred pain to the thigh
Patients with thigh pain that is referred from another source may or may not experience symptoms from the originating source. Patients typically experience a dull ache in the thigh that is poorly localized and may vary in severity or location. They may also experience pain or stiffness in other locations in the body such as the lower back, hip, groin or buttock. Occasionally pain may also be felt in the knee, lower leg, ankle or foot. These symptoms are usually experienced on the same side of the body as the thigh pain, although sometimes, the opposite side or both sides may be affected. Occasionally patients may also experience pins and needles or numbness in the affected leg. This most commonly affects the foot and can sometimes affect the other leg or both legs.
Patients with referred pain to the thigh normally experience restricted movement and abnormalities on assessment (such as tenderness on palpation) in the specific region of the body causing the pain. Local assessment of the thigh may demonstrate no significant abnormalities although patients may experience tenderness on firmly touching the thigh region. In long standing cases of thigh pain that is referred form another source, patients may develop muscle tightness or weakness in the muscles of the thigh.
Diagnosis of referred pain to the thigh
A thorough subjective and objective examination from a physiotherapist is usually sufficient to diagnose referred pain to the thigh and the underlying cause of symptoms. Further investigations such as X-rays, MRI or CT scans are often required to assist with diagnosis.
Treatment for referred pain to the thigh
Treatment for patients with thigh pain that is referred from another source varies greatly depending on the cause. Accurate diagnosis from a physiotherapist or doctor is therefore required to determine the most appropriate treatment. Treatment of the underlying cause of symptoms should result in improvement in the thigh pain.
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Find a physiotherapist in your local area who can assess and treat pain that is referred to the thigh.
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