Causes of Pain Down the Outside of the Thigh

Climbing stairs, walking, standing up from a chair and other daily activities may be difficult if you have pain along the outside of your thigh. The cause of the pain is sometimes obvious, such as when you pull a muscle during a sports activity or workout. However, your pain can also be caused by less obvious conditions, such as a pinched nerve. Seek medical attention for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment if you have outer thigh pain.

A woman is sitting on a physical therapy table holding her leg.
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Muscle-related Injury

Muscle-related injuries are a common cause of pain in your outer thigh. An important leg muscle runs from your pelvis along the outer thigh to your lower leg bone. Other muscles run from your pelvis to your upper thigh bone. The muscles in this area move your leg out to the side. A muscle strain can occur quickly if these muscles are overstretched, or develop gradually from overuse or weakness. Muscle strains typically cause dull, aching pain that increases when you stand on the affected leg. Treatments your doctor may recommend to promote healing include ice, rest or activity modification, stretching and massage. A steroid injection may be used to decrease inflammation and help relieve your discomfort.


Bursae are fluid-filled sacs located in various high-friction areas of your body, such as where muscle tendons slide over one another or a bone. These small sacs reduce friction and provide cushioning at many body sites, including the area over your outer hip where your thigh bone and pelvis meet. Inflammation of this sac, or hip bursitis, typically causes pain in the upper, outer thigh where your thigh bone protrudes. You will likely experience sharp pain if the area is touched, and certain activities -- such as climbing stairs and standing from a seated position -- are usually quite painful. Common treatments your doctor may recommend include activity modification, physical therapy and a steroid injection to reduce inflammation of the bursa.

Spinal Nerve Compression

Nerves exit your spine to provide sensation to skin and power muscles throughout your body. Nerves known as L4 and L5 exit the lumbar spine in your lower back, supplying your outer thigh. Compression of or damage to these nerves can cause pain in the area, which may vary depending on the position of your back. You may also experience tingling or numbness in your thigh. Spinal nerve compression sometimes leads to muscle weakness. Compression of the L4 and L5 nerves can limit your ability to raise your big toe, bend your foot downward or rotate your foot outward. Treatment for this condition depends on the cause and severity of the nerve damage.

Other Causes

Damage to or compression of the nerve supplying sensation to the skin of your outer thigh can lead to burning pain, numbness or tingling in the area. This condition, known as meralgia paresthetica, can develop from a variety of causes such as repetitive movement, hip injury, excessively tight clothing and weight gain. Nerve damage related to diabetes or a surgical procedure involving your hip, pelvis or abdomen are also possible causes. Less commonly, other medical problems can lead to pain in your outer thigh, including certain tumors, nervous system conditions and infections. Seek medical attention if you have outer thigh pain -- particularly if the cause is not obvious or the pain worsens.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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