What is meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paresthetica is a condition that causes numbness, pain, or a burning feeling in your outer thigh. You might also hear it called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome. It happens when there’s too much pressure on or damage to one of the nerves in your leg.
In most cases, there are simple ways to treat the condition, such as wearing looser clothing. Some people with more severe meralgia paresthetica may need medication or surgery.
With the right treatment and enough time to recover, you can ease your symptoms and feel better.
How common is meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paraesthetica is a very uncommon condition. It most often affects people between the ages of 30-40 years. The condition is thought to be much rarer in children. It occurs more often in men than in women. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica?
The common symptoms of meralgia paresthetica are:
- Pain, tingling, numbness, or burning in the outside of your thigh
- Sensitivity to light touch rather than to firm pressure
- High sensitivity to heat
Your symptoms may be mild at first, but as the condition gets worse, you might feel sharper, shooting pain. It may go away and come back for no clear reason.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paresthetica occurs when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve — which supplies sensation to the surface of your outer thigh — becomes compressed, or pinched. The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is purely a sensory nerve and doesn’t affect your ability to use your leg muscles.
In most people, this nerve passes through the groin to the upper thigh without trouble. But in meralgia paresthetica, the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve becomes trapped — often under the inguinal ligament, which runs along your groin from your abdomen to your upper thigh.
Common causes of this compression include any condition that increases pressure on the groin, including:
- Tight clothing, such as belts, corsets and tight pants
- Obesity or weight gain
- Wearing a heavy tool belt
- Scar tissue near the inguinal ligament due to injury or past surgery
- Nerve injury, which can be due to diabetes or seat belt injury after a motor vehicle accident, for example, also can cause meralgia paresthetica.
What increases my risk for meralgia paresthetica?
There are many risk factors for meralgia paresthetica, such as:
- Extra weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the pressure on your lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.
- A growing belly puts added pressure on your groin, through which the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve passes.
- Diabetes-related nerve injury can lead to meralgia paresthetica.
- Age. People between the ages of 30 and 60 are at a higher risk.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is meralgia paresthetica diagnosed?
In most cases, your doctor can make a diagnosis of meralgia paresthetica based on your medical history and a physical exam. He or she might test the sensation of the affected thigh, ask you to describe the pain, and ask you to trace the numb or painful area on your thigh. Additional examination including strength testing and reflex testing might be done to help exclude other causes for the symptoms.
To rule out other conditions, your doctor might recommend:
- Imaging studies. Although no specific changes are evident on X-ray if you have meralgia paresthetica, images of your hip and pelvic area might be helpful to exclude other conditions as a cause of your symptoms.If your doctor suspects a tumor could be causing your pain, he or she might order a CT scan or MRI.
- This test measures the electrical discharges produced in muscles to help evaluate and diagnose muscle and nerve disorders. A thin needle electrode is placed into the muscle to record electrical activity. Results of this test are normal in meralgia paresthetica, but the test might be needed to exclude other disorders when the diagnosis isn’t clear.
- Nerve conduction study. Patch-style electrodes are placed on your skin to stimulate the nerve with a mild electrical impulse. The electrical impulse helps diagnose damaged nerves. This test might be done primarily to exclude other causes for the symptoms.
- Nerve blockade. Pain relief achieved from anesthetic injection into your thigh where the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve enters into it can confirm that you have meralgia paresthetica. Ultrasound imaging might be used to guide the needle.
How is meralgia paresthetica treated?
The goal of treatment is to ease the pressure on your nerve. The type of therapy you get depends on the cause of your condition.
For mild cases, your doctor may recommend:
- Heat, ice, or taking over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen for a few days
- Weight loss
- Wearing loose-fitting clothing, especially around your upper front hip
- Physical therapy for a hip injury or to strengthen your leg muscles or abs
If your condition is more severe, you may need:
- A corticosteroid shot to reduce swelling.
- Surgery to ease pressure on the nerve. Doctors usually recommend an operation only when no other treatment helps.
It can take some time for your pain to go away. Some people will still feel numbness even after treatment. In most cases, though, you should be able to recover within 4 to 6 weeks.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage meralgia paresthetica?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with meralgia paresthetica:
- Avoid wearing tight clothing.
- Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you’re overweight.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: August 11, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019
Meralgia paresthetica. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/meralgia-paresthetica/home/ovc-20308723. Accessed August 11, 2017.
Meralgia Paresthetica. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/meralgia-paresthetica#2-5. Accessed August 11, 2017.
Meralgia Paraesthetica. https://patient.info/health/meralgia-paraesthetica-leaflet#nav-4. Accessed August 11, 2017.