What's really causing my thigh pain?

Thigh pain can range from a mild irritation to a sever pain that can stop us training, and if you’re a member of One Element that's the last thing you want! Although running is a great exercise it asks a lot of the muscles in the thigh and hip, especially if you have been sedentary for a large part of the day sitting at your desk or in meetings etc. When we then ask the body to work hard, such as in a sprint, it can be a lot for the body to cope with and occasionally result in injury at the top of the thigh near the pelvis. It normally goes with rest only to return as soon as we start training again. So why does it come back?

In order to understand the problem we need to know little about the muscles around this area. The four main muscles in the thigh (Quadriceps) are mainly concerned with straightening the leg. One of the muscles also helps in assisting the hip flexors which bring the thigh to the front again so we can keep running and not fall over. The main hip flexor is a little know muscle called psoas (it’s a silent ‘p’ incase you were wondering). It attaches to the lower back and the inner thigh and can therefore cause problems in either of these areas. If this muscle becomes chronically short, for example if we sit a lot, then it can’t operate at its full potential and therefore struggles when we ask it to work hard when we’re running or sprinting.

The reason for the pain at the top of the thigh is often not the psoas muscle itself (as this is often working at below full potential due to the shortening) but the small muscle of the quadriceps I mentioned previously. As this assists in flexing the thigh (lifting the knee)it gets recruited when the psoas isn’t working correctly, and so becomes overworked and prone to injury and therefore pain and tenderness. We therefore experience thigh pain from the smaller accessory muscle at the top of the thigh, but it's not because this muscle isn’t working well, it's because it’s working too hard!

To address the problem we need to treat the local injury to the quadriceps, but most importantly lengthen the shortened hip flexors so the pressure is taken off the overworked muscle. Just treating the injured muscle doesn’t address the root cause and that's why the injury keeps returning.

This Article was written by One Element members Jules Newhill. Julian is a osteopath and sports injury specialist and runs a clinic in Earlsfield. For further details please visit www.oneosteopathy.co.uk or call 0203 1433882

Julian Newhill M.Ost. BA(Hons). Dip SM
Osteopath and Injury Specialist