Often, when you have a sore muscle you attribute it to exercising it too hard or to lack of fitness. When you haven't been exercising, though, and you feel soreness in your legs and buttocks, other issues may be present. The butt and thighs contain muscles, but various joints are also present and major blood vessels and nerves also run through them. The variety of potential causes, therefore, include issues with these structures, which makes pinpointing the cause difficult, and coupled with the possibility of something serious underlying the pain, makes it essential to visit your doctor to check it out.
Pain can be hard to localize because a sore pain sensation from one area of the body can feel as if it's coming from another part of the body. Therefore, it may feel as though the muscles of the buttocks and thigh are the cause when in reality the pain originated in other structures. For example, problems with the hip can actually produce pain in the buttocks, the leg or the groin.
Nerves are the pathways that send sensory information to the brain, including pain sensation. This means when nerves are damaged or compressed, sensations of pain are mistakenly interpreted by the brain as coming from the muscles or other areas the nerve supplies instead of from the nerve itself. An important nerve in the buttocks and the thighs is the sciatic nerve, and so issues with this nerve produce pain in these locations. Sciatica is a term that covers a variety of issues with this nerve, all with symptoms of pain in the buttocks and down the leg. Causes of sciatica include compression of the nerve roots as they leave the spine from spinal disc herniation, a condition where the holes in the spine where the nerves pass through are narrowed called spinal stenosis, and piriformis syndrome, where the piriformis muscle around the nerve is inflamed and so irritates the nerve. A tumor pressing on the nerve is another possible explanation of sciatic nerve pain. Meralgia paresthetica, a burning soreness in the thigh caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, can also produce pain in the buttocks on occasion.
Various blood vessels pass through the buttocks and the thigh and supply the muscles of the area. If any of these vessels are blocked or narrowed, the muscle produces a type of pain called "claudication." This pain is felt more when moving than at rest, because the muscle isn't getting enough blood. Another possible cause of claudication is an aneurysm in one of the vessels, where the vessel wall is unusually dilated and tends to collect debris, which can cause clots.
Bone and Joints
Various possible issues can arise with the bones and joints of the hip and thigh, which can produce pain in the buttocks and the thigh. Hip bursitis, an inflammation of one of the areas where muscles attach to the bone, can cause pain that can extend into the thigh. A condition called transient osteoporosis, where the bone of the hip joint becomes weak, can also cause buttock and thigh pain, albeit with a sudden onset. Various inflammatory conditions can also produce thigh and buttock pain, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Back Pain and Sciatica
- UpToDate: Patient information: Peripheral artery disease and claudication (Beyond the Basics)
- NY Times: Herniated Disk
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: Hip and Thigh
- London Bridge Orthopaedics: Hip Symptoms
- Orthopedics International: Spinal Tumors
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images