How to Relieve Thigh Pain at Night

Experiencing thigh pain?

This article covers the basics of the thigh, its locations, and the symptoms and causes of thigh pain.


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Upper leg pain frequently affects individuals at night and interrupts their sleep. A variety of conditions cause nighttime thigh pain. Below you will find the most common nighttime thigh pain conditions and at-home treatments recommended for leg pain at night.

Causes of Nighttime Thigh Pain

If you have been wondering why your thighs hurt at night, you may be suffering from the following:

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Charley horse 
  • Sciatica 
  • Muscle strain 
  • Blood clots

REstless Leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects 3 to 15% of the population and is one of the most common conditions in patients exhibiting leg pain.

Symptoms include:

  • The uncontrollable urge to move your legs
  • Sensations of tingling in the skin
  • Itching
  • Pain 
  • Aching thighs at night

RLS is prevalent in people suffering from low dopamine levels, low cortisol, iron deficiency, kidney failure, and anxiety. If you are pregnant, diabetic, or have other chronic illnesses, you may be predisposed to RLS.

Charley Horse

Cramps in the leg are often referred to as a charley horse. Sharp pain in the thigh while sleeping is most likely a cramp. These occur very quickly and are severe in intensity. Tightening the muscle is unbearable and will wake you up from sleeping, and the discomfort in the muscles can last for hours after the cramp goes away.


Damage to the sciatica nerves produces thigh pain when lying down, typically only in the back of the thigh down to the bend in the knee. In severe cases, the pain will radiate down to the soles of the feet. Sciatica damage is caused by spinal damage, disk damage, or pelvic injury, and research shows this affects primarily men between the ages of 30 and 50.

Muscle Strain

Athletes and individuals who exercise regularly are prone to muscle strains. These injuries are predominately accompanied by a popping sensation from the tearing of the muscle accompanied by intense pain. If you have suffered this type of injury, severe thigh pain at night will be likely. 

Peripheral Artery Disease

6.5 million people over the age of 40 have peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to research. PAD mainly occurs in the legs and is the build-up of plaque in the arteries causing blockages and narrowing. Several factors increase your risk for peripheral artery disease, such as:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • African American
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • High Cholesterol/Blood Pressure
  • Patients with peripheral artery disease present with symptoms of aching, painful legs, and cramping in the legs. PAD symptoms are generally less severe when resting.

Blood Clots

Blood clots that form in the veins are predominately found in the thigh and lower leg. Deep thigh pain at night could be an indicator of blood clots, and pain is accompanied by swelling and redness of the affected area. If you are experiencing symptoms of blood clots, seek medical treatment immediately.

Thigh clots deep in the vein are more likely to break off into the bloodstream. When clots travel to the lungs, patients experience pulmonary embolism, a clot stuck in the artery in the lung. Pulmonary embolism has a mortality risk of 30 percent if left untreated but drops to 8 percent when appropriately treated.

How to Stop Nighttime Thigh Pain

Pain in the thighs at night hinders healthy sleeping habits, and treatment at home may be necessary. Before attempting to treat at home, consult with a medical professional for confirmation of diagnosis. Depending on your medical diagnosis will determine if at-home treatment or professional treatment is required. 

Hot & Cold Therapy for Thigh Pain

Hot & cold Therapy

Cold treatment should be used for strains in the thigh and newly pulled muscles. Applying an ice pack or bag effectively treats swelling, pain, and inflammation after an injury. Muscle cramp pain is reduced by cold as well. Ensure to leave ice or cold on the thigh for no longer than 20 minutes to prevent further injury to the skin and nerves. 

If your thighs ache at night, heat therapy may provide some relief, and heat opens the blood vessels causing the muscles to relax. Less pain and inflammation occur with treatment, but make sure to leave on a maximum of 20 minutes.

Massage for Thigh Pain


Massages can ease the symptoms of restless leg syndrome and charley horses. Relaxing the muscles by rubbing the area or using a roller can alleviate thigh pain at night in bed.

Ice and Heat for Thigh Pain

Compression (Kinesiology Tape)

Applying kinesiology tape or a thigh brace will help diminish front thigh pain at night. Combining compression with other treatments speeds up recovery from injuries and aids in pain and swelling relief.  

Pain Relief Cream for Thigh Pain

Pain Relief Cream

Several over-the-counter and prescription creams are on the market for upper leg pain. Prescription NSAIDs are the strongest anti-inflammatory cream currently available, and a physician requires a prescription. Other topical creams are available for purchase without a prescription, over-the-counter, like:

  • Lidocaine: numbing medication
  • Capsaicin: cream derived from hot peppers producing a hot sensation
  • Counterirritants: distracts you from the pain by creating a cooling or heating sensation
Stretches for Thigh Pain

Stretch & Exercise

Stretching before lying down is a great way to prevent thigh muscle pain at night. There are many great stretches for the thigh's front, back, outer, and upper parts. Remember, the thigh muscle is made up of many muscles, and stretching relaxes and strengthens the muscles at the same time. Routinely exercising strengthens your thigh muscles and improves health, preventing thigh aches and pain.

TENS Unit for Thigh Pain

TENS Therapy

A TENS unit can treat sciatica and other forms of nerve pain affecting the thigh. TENS unit therapy allows you to send an electrical current to painful nerve endings through a small patch attached to the unit. Pulses confuse the brain into thinking the nerve is healthy, and the pain subsides.

Red Light Therapy for Thigh Pain

Red Light Therapy

Some physicians now treat pain in the thigh with Red Light Therapy, a newer treatment pointing a low-level infrared laser at the problem sight. Studies have shown a reduction in inflammation at the treatment site reduces pain.

Acupuncture for thigh pain relief


If you suffer from chronic thigh pain, then acupuncture may be one of the top treatments. Research shows a reduction in pain of 50% immediately after treatment and higher percentages of 3 to 36 months after treatment.

Ice and Heat for Thigh Pain

Medical Treatment

All thigh pain cannot be treated at home or without seeking medical treatment. Certain conditions require a diagnosis, tests, and possibly extensive treatment by a physician. Do not attempt to treat thigh pain at home if you fear a serious medical condition is causing your pain.

Medications for Thigh Pain


Over-the-counter and prescription medications may be required to treat your thigh pain. Doctors may recommend Ibuprofen, Naproxen, or Acetaminophen without a prescription to reduce pain and decrease inflammation. More intense pain will need to be treated with prescription pain medications, muscle relaxants, or medications specifically created for your condition.

About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.