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How to Stop Thigh Pain at Night

by Patty Weasler, RN September 29, 2021 0 Comments

Woman sleeping

Is thigh pain at night keeping you awake? There are several causes of nighttime thigh pain, including--muscle strains, charley horse, or restless leg syndrome. Before you can stop your nighttime discomfort, the first step is to identify the cause. Keep scrolling to learn about the most common causes; then once you’ve received a proper diagnosis, try these remedies for nighttime relief.

Common Causes of Thigh Pain at Night

In this section, we cover the common causes of thigh pain at night, to help you identify what might be causing your own pain.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a condition where you have an irresistible urge to move your legs due to pain or discomfort. RLS seems to be worse at night when you are trying to rest, making it feel impossible to get a good night’s sleep. People who develop RLS tend to have nutrient deficiencies, are pregnant, or a chronic disease.

Treating Restless Leg Syndrome at Night

Charley Horse

A charley horse, also known as a leg cramp, is a painful muscle contraction that can last seconds or minutes. When the cramping happens at night, you’ll probably jump out of bed from the pain. Thankfully for most people, it is just a signal that they are dehydrated or worked out too hard during the day. Try and walk or stretch the painful area to relieve the charley horse.

Sciatica

Sciatica is a condition that refers to back pain caused by pinching of the sciatica nerve. For some people, the pain doesn’t stop at the back and travels down through their buttocks, thigh, hamstring and lower leg. This painful condition can rob you of your sleep and make your day both exhausting and uncomfortable.

What is Sciatica?

Muscle Strain

Muscle strains are injuries caused by movements that extend your muscle beyond its normal range or from overuse of the muscle. A thigh strain can make sleeping difficult with the pain and the need to properly position your leg for recovery. Thankfully, time and rest will heal the strain and sleep will get better as time goes on.

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a narrowing of the arteries in the legs, arms, stomach, and head. It typically affects the arteries in the legs, leading to pain, tiredness, or cramping. The pain will often go away when you rest and returns as you start walking around again. With a quick diagnosis, your doctor can treat PAD, eliminating your leg pain.

Blood Clot

A blood clot or deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in your leg is a medical emergency. It’s characterized by leg pain, redness, and swelling over the site of the clot where the blood vessels are occluded. Decreased blood flow to the area can lead to damage to the surrounding tissues. If the blood clot breaks away it can cause a pulmonary embolism. If you suspect you have a DVT call your doctor right away.

How to Stop Thigh Pain at Night

Thigh pain at night can be more than just a nuisance that steals precious hours of sleep. The pain can indicate a serious medical condition that needs a prompt and proper diagnosis before you attempt to treat it on your own. With so many different causes of thigh pain, be sure to put in a call to your doctor before you try these tricks for managing nighttime thigh pain.

Hot and Cold Therapy

Nighttime thigh pain caused by an injury or soft tissue issues can be treated with hot and cold therapy. The heat from a heating pad or hot water bottle soothes sore muscles and improves blood flow which brings key nutrients and oxygen to the area. Use heat just before you go to sleep for 20 minutes to find the best relief.

If your thigh pain is from a new injury then cold therapy may be the answer for you. Try an ice pack on your thigh for 20 minutes at a time to numb the pain and reduce swelling. The cold won’t be as relaxing as the heat but it will provide better pain relief. Never sleep with an ice pack or heating device, it can cause serious skin injury.

Learn About Alternating Hot & Cold Therapy

Massage Before Bedtime

Thigh pain from a charley horse or another muscle source would benefit from a nighttime massage. Massage can relieve muscle tension and decrease muscle spasms associated with Charley horses. When done right before bedtime, a massage will relax your body and prep you for sleep. Use gentle massage strokes starting towards your knee going up your thigh.

Tips & Techniques for Self Massage

Compression

Nighttime thigh pain that also involves swelling or an injury can benefit from the use of compression treatment. Compression with a brace or elastic wrap will squeeze the thigh preventing further swelling and give you a small amount of support. You’ll want a compression device that allows for full adjustment to accommodate the increase and decrease of the swelling. 

Pain Cream

There are several types of pain creams on the market that can be used for thigh pain at night. One type is called a counterirritant because it uses a cooling or burning effect to divert your mind from the pain. Another popular pain cream uses capsaicin which is a compound in chili peppers to create a burning or warm sensation to ease pain. Whichever one you choose, test a small amount on your skin to ensure it won’t cause skin irritation.

Stretch & Exercise

If your thigh pain originates from the musculoskeletal system then stretching and exercise is a great treatment option. Stretching will relax and loosen tight muscles. Exercises will improve muscle strength that supports your joints and back.

Effective Exercises for Thigh Pain

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a popular alternative treatment used for reducing pain in various locations of the body. Needles are specifically arranged in areas to help stimulate endorphins that help relieve pain naturally. This must be done by a licensed professional.

Medication

Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) are generally well-tolerated medications that have minimal side effects. They can reduce thigh pain and help get you to sleep. Talk to your doctor about other options that can help your body relax while you recover from the injury or condition that is causing your pain.

Medical Treatment

Some conditions cannot be treated with home remedies and need a health care professional. Your doctor can evaluate your condition to determine the best course of action. If there is a serious medical condition causing your pain then diagnostic imaging like an x-ray or CT may be necessary. It’s important to get to the bottom of the pain and treat its root cause.

End Nightly Thigh Pain

Thigh pain at night can be caused by several different conditions or injuries. It can be something as simple as a charley horse or as serious as a blood clot. Talk to your doctor if you have nighttime thigh pain to get a quick and accurate diagnosis. Once you know what you are dealing with then you can come up with a game plan to treat the pain. Medication, stretching, and exercise are a few options that can minimize thigh pain.

Sources:

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14170-leg-cramps

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Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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