Leg Pain Above the Knee
Many conditions can cause leg pain above the knee. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, leg pain, including that above the knee or thigh pain, is a common health complaint. Thigh pain may be caused by tissues within the thigh, or it may be referred from another part of the body, such as the lower back. Upper-leg pain ranges from mild and annoying to severe and debilitating, depending on the cause. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about the pain, it persists or worsens, or it is accompanied by worrisome symptoms such as swelling, redness or fever.
The upper leg is the area between the hip joint and the knee joint. The upper leg is comprised of muscles, ligaments, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. Leg pain above the knee can be generated by any one of these tissues. The femur, or thigh bone, is the only bone in the upper leg, and it too can generate pain due to fracture, infection, bruising or tumors. The upper leg contains several different muscle compartments, including the thigh muscles, hamstring muscles and groin muscles.
- The upper leg is the area between the hip joint and the knee joint.
- The femur, or thigh bone, is the only bone in the upper leg, and it too can generate pain due to fracture, infection, bruising or tumors.
Exercises for an Anal Fissure
Numerous conditions or injuries can cause leg pain above the knee. Pain in the upper leg can be caused by overuse injuries, traumatic injuries involving blunt-force trauma and a wide variety of acute or chronic medical conditions. Leg pain above the knee may also be caused by bone cancer, fractures of the femur, hip bursitis, fibromyalgia, muscle strains, hip dislocations, muscle cramps, osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, tendinitis and certain blood-vessel disorders, such as peripheral arterial disease.
Symptoms associated with upper-leg pain depend on the cause of the pain, the extent of the damage or injury and the specific tissue types affected. Common signs and symptoms associated with upper-leg pain or pain above the knee include deep aching, burning, sharp or stabbing pain in the upper leg, bruising or swelling in the affected area, limping, an inability to bear weight on the affected side and decreased active range of motion in the hip or knee joints.
Causes of Leg & Arm Pain
Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing leg pain above the knee, including regular participation in contact sports such as football or hockey, insufficient warm-up prior to physical activity, previous upper-leg injuries, dehydration or electrolyte imbalance and muscle imbalances. Lifestyle factors can also contribute to upper-leg pain. Certain blood-vessel disorders that can cause pain above the knee may result from a lack of physical activity and a poor diet, such as atherosclerosis and blood clots.
Many causes of leg pain above the knee — particularly pain caused by repetitive strain or overuse injuries — can be treated using conservative care methods. The Sports Injury Clinic website lists methods including rest, ice, compression and elevation, mobilization of the injured tissues and body segment, stretching and strengthening exercises, activity modification, sports massage and certain physical-therapy modalities, such as cold laser and ultrasound. If leg pain fails to resolve with these measures, contact your doctor.
Exercises for an Anal Fissure
Causes of Leg & Arm Pain
What Are the Treatments for Bone Spurs on the Leg Bone?
Causes of Pain on the Right Side of the Neck Down to the Shoulder
Knee Cap Pain & Swelling
Causes of Pain in the Upper Left Hip
How to Tell if You Have a Bruised MCL
Diseases That Cause Calf Muscle Pain
Icy Hot Uses
Causes of Pain in the Lower Right Quadrant
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Leg Pain — Overview
- MedlinePlus: Leg Pain
- Sports Injury Clinic: Pulled Hamstring
- Lespasio MJ, Piuzzi NS, Husni ME, Muschler GF, Guarino A, Mont MA. Knee Osteoarthritis: A Primer. Perm J. 2017;21:16-183. doi:10.7812/TPP/16-183
- Kiapour AM, Murray MM. Basic science of anterior cruciate ligament injury and repair. Bone Joint Res. 2014;3(2):20-31. doi:10.1302/2046-3758.32.2000241
- Doral MN, Bilge O, Huri G, Turhan E, Verdonk R. Modern treatment of meniscal tears. EFORT Open Rev. 2018;3(5):260-268. doi:10.1302/2058-5241.3.170067
- Reinking MF. CURRENT CONCEPTS IN THE TREATMENT OF PATELLAR TENDINOPATHY. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016;11(6):854-866.
- Petersen W, Rembitzki I, Liebau C. Patellofemoral pain in athletes. Open Access J Sports Med. 2017;8:143-154. doi:10.2147/OAJSM.S133406
- Frush TJ, Noyes FR. Baker's Cyst: Diagnostic and Surgical Considerations. Sports Health. 2015;7(4):359-65. doi:10.1177/1941738113520130
- Huang YC, Yeh WL. Endoscopic treatment of prepatellar bursitis. Int Orthop. 2011;35(3):355-8. doi:10.1007/s00264-010-1033-5
- Beals C, Flanigan D. A Review of Treatments for Iliotibial Band Syndrome in the Athletic Population. J Sports Med (Hindawi Publ Corp). 2013;2013:367169. doi:10.1155/2013/367169
- Tsai CH, Hsu CJ, Hung CH, Hsu HC. Primary traumatic patellar dislocation. J Orthop Surg Res. 2012;7:21. doi:10.1186/1749-799X-7-21
- Ragab G, Elshahaly M, Bardin T. Gout: An old disease in new perspective - A review. J Adv Res. 2017;8(5):495-511. doi:10.1016/j.jare.2017.04.008
- Lee PYF, Nixion A, Chandratreya A, Murray JM. Synovial Plica Syndrome of the Knee: A Commonly Overlooked Cause of Anterior Knee Pain. Surg J (N Y). 2017;3(1):e9-e16. doi:10.1055/s-0037-1598047
- Vaishya R, Azizi AT, Agarwal AK, Vijay V. Apophysitis of the Tibial Tuberosity (Osgood-Schlatter Disease): A Review. Cureus. 2016;8(9):e780. doi:10.7759/cureus.780
- Zanon G, Di vico G, Marullo M. Osteochondritis dissecans of the knee. Joints. 2014;2(1):29-36.
- Hindle P, Davidson E, Biant LC. Septic arthritis of the knee: the use and effect of antibiotics prior to diagnostic aspiration. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2012;94(5):351-5. doi:10.1308/003588412X13171221591015
- Gwinner C, Märdian S, Schwabe P, Schaser KD, Krapohl BD, Jung TM. Current concepts review: Fractures of the patella. GMS Interdiscip Plast Reconstr Surg DGPW. 2016;5:Doc01. doi:10.3205/iprs000080
- Voskuil R, Evenski AJ, Montgomery C, Emory CL. Malignant Bone Tumors of the Knee: How to Identify and Treat. J Knee Surg. 2019;32(4):305-314. doi:10.1055/s-0038-1675828
- Gupte C, St mart JP. The acute swollen knee: diagnosis and management. J R Soc Med. 2013;106(7):259-68. doi:10.1177/0141076813482831
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Unstable Kneecap.
- Bhatia D, Bejarano T, Novo M. Current interventions in the management of knee osteoarthritis. Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences 2013 Jan-Mar;5(1):30-38. doi:%2010.4103/0975-7406.106561
- Bronstein RD, Schaffer JC. Physical Examination of the Knee: Meniscus, Cartilage, and Patellofemoral Conditions. J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2017 May;25(5):365-374.
- Browne K, Kurtz CA. How to perform a comprehensive examination of the knee. JAAPA. 2009 Jun;22(6):20-25.
- Hergenroeder AC, Harvey BS. (2017). Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD): Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. Bachur RG, ed. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc.
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.