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What Causes Front Thigh Pain?

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.
What Causes Front Thigh Pain?
Anterior or front thigh pain can be debilitating.

There are many causes of anterior or front thigh pain. According to, leg pain, including anterior thigh pain, can affect a person's ability to walk, bear weight on the affected side and feel stable. Most anterior thigh pain originates from structures on the front of the thigh, such as the quadriceps muscles, although some anterior thigh pain may be referred from another part of the body, such as the lower back. Causes of front thigh pain are usually not serious, though any pain that persists or worsens should be brought to the attention of a physician.

Charley Horse

A charley horse can cause anterior thigh pain. According to MedlinePlus, a charley horse is a muscle spasm, especially in the leg. Although muscle spasms can occur anywhere in the body, the legs, including the anterior thigh muscles, are common locations for spasms to manifest. Muscle spasms are characterized by involuntary muscle contractions that do not relax.

A charley horse can be caused by overworked muscles, dehydration and nerve irritation. Anterior thigh charley horses are especially common in athletes participating in running or jumping activities. Common signs and symptoms associated with a charley horses include severe pain and tightness in the affected muscle, along with a bulging muscle and increased muscle tone in the involved area. MedlinePlus says that triggering activities should be avoided and the muscle should be stretched and massaged for relief.

Quadriceps Strain

A quadriceps muscle strain can cause anterior thigh pain. The Sports Injury Clinic website states that tears in the fibers of the bulky quadriceps muscle group--consisting of the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris muscles--can cause pain in the front of the thigh. The degree of quadriceps strain-related pain varies, depending on the severity of the muscle tear.

Quadriceps muscle strains are relatively common among athletes participating in sprinting, jumping or kicking activities. Common signs and symptoms associated with a quadriceps muscle strain include anterior thigh pain and tightness, pain or discomfort in the affected area with walking, mild swelling, difficulty straightening the knee against resistance and muscle spasm near the injury site. According to Sports Injury Clinic, most quadriceps muscle strains respond well to conservative care methods, including rest, ice, compression and elevation immediately following strain-related injury.


Contusions can cause anterior thigh pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, muscle contusions are bruises caused by a single traumatic event or by repeated blows to a muscle from a blunt object. The forces causing a contusion crush underlying muscle fibers and connective tissue, although the skin is not broken.

The AAOS states that athletes participating in contact sports have a greater risk of suffering a muscle contusion, and that contusions are one of the most common causes of sports injuries, second only to muscle strains or tears. Common signs and symptoms associated with quadriceps muscle contusions include skin discoloration, pain in the affected area, a soft tissue defect or lump over the injury site and tenderness at the site of contusion. Contusions that cause severe swelling and bleeding underneath the skin can result in shock.

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