Pain in the Upper Thigh After Running

Injury while running in the winter spring autumn.
Pain in your upper thigh can quickly end your run. (Image: Lacheev/iStock/Getty Images)

It's more than frustrating to have your morning run cut short by pain in your upper thigh. Your thighs contain some of the largest muscle groups in the human body and are essential for good running form.

Pain at the top of your thigh can indicate a muscle strain or tear. Pinpointing the nature of your pain and helping the affected area heal quickly will get you back on schedule for your morning exercise routine.

The Muscles of Your Thigh

Pain in the upper thigh can occur in several muscles. There are three primary muscle groups in the thigh: the quadriceps make up the front of the thigh; the hamstrings are at the back of the thigh; and the adductor muscles run down the inside of your leg.

You may also experience a strain in one of several muscle groups in the hips during a run, and this can cause pain in your thighs. Most notably, the hip flexor muscles, located just at the top of your thigh, are a common area for strain in runners. A strain in these muscles can manifest as pain near the very top of your thigh — you've probably felt a little tenderness here after a really good run.

Muscle Strains

Strains are a common injury for athletes in any discipline. For runners, a muscle strain can make it difficult to run without pain. Muscle strains most often occur where fibrous tendons anchor your muscles to your bones.

Once a muscle is strained, it's important to stop exercising and allow the muscle to heal; a strained muscle is especially prone to re-injury, and the condition of the muscle can worsen if it's repeatedly strained. Most of the time, a strained muscle has simply been overstretched, but occasionally, a worse injury like a muscle tear may be at fault for the pain you're feeling.

Muscle Tears

If the pain in your upper thigh doesn't subside after a few days of rest, it's possible that you have a muscle tear, which is less common and more serious than a strain. Symptoms of a muscle tear include swelling, bruising, muscle spasms, and severe pain.

If this injury occurs at the top of your thigh, you may notice bulging, or bruising that runs down the inside of your thigh. A torn muscle is serious, and may warrant a visit to your doctor or physical therapist.

Happy Mature Woman On Bed Receiving Leg Massage In Spa
You may need to visit a physical therapist to treat a muscle tear. (Image: AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images)

Treating a Muscle Strain or Tear

If you're experiencing a muscle strain, rest is the best medicine. Take a few days off from your normal running routine and avoid any activity that causes the pain to worsen.

Treat the affected area with ice wrapped in a clean cloth for 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours for several days. If your pain lingers for longer than a few days, seek out a medical professional, as you may have a bad tear.

In severe cases, using crutches to completely relieve the affected muscles can accelerate the healing process. Once your body has had a chance to heal, you'll be ready to get back out there for another run.

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