What is meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paresthetica, also called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, is caused when one of your large sensory nerves (lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) to one of your legs is being compressed. This compression results in a terrible burning sensation felt in your outer thigh.
The femoral nerve is a part of the lumbar plexus nerve network. The femoral nerve works to provide nerve innervations to the flexor muscles of the hip and the extensor muscles of the leg. It provides sensation to the anterior (front) of the thigh.
The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is part of the lumbar plexus nerve network. It provides sensation to the antero-lateral aspect of the thigh and has some overlap in sensation with the femoral nerve. As a pure sensory nerve, it does not operate any muscles.
Causes of meralgia paresthetica
Meralgia paresthetica is caused by nerve entrapment. The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve running through your pelvis, groin and into the thighs becomes compressed. This can be caused by swelling, trauma, or pressure narrowing these openings and squeezing the nerve.
Common causes of meralgia paresthetica may include:
- Repetitive motion of the legs
- Recent injuries to the hip
- Wearing tight clothing
- Weight gain
Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica
Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include:
- Burning sensation felt in your outer or lateral aspect of the thigh
- Tingling or numbness felt in your thigh
- Sensitivity felt on light touch more than on deep pressure
Diagnosis of meralgia paresthetica
Proper diagnosis of meralgia paresthetica requires the expert attention of an experienced physician. Diagnosis may include:
- Complete medical history
- A comprehensive clinical exam, including neurological exams
- Imaging studies such as X-rays and/or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Electrodiagnostic studies (EMG)
- Diagnostic nerve block
Diagnosis is necessary to determine the cause of meralgia paresthetica, so the appropriate treatment plan, including a surgical option is considered.
Treatment for meralgia paresthetica
Treatment will depend on the cause of the pressure on the nerve. The primary goal is to remove this compression. Depending on the original cause, your doctor may recommend the following:
- Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the legs and buttocks, and reduce injury to the hips
- Wearing less restrictive clothing
- Weight loss management
- Surgical treatment (called sensory nerve surgery)
Your doctor may also recommend an injection of a corticosteroid to aid in reducing swelling. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve the compression surrounding the nerve.
Dr Allan Belzberg is a world-renowned neurosurgeon in the treatment of peripheral nerve injuries. He treats on average 500 nerve injuries every year and has published research publications focusing on improving surgical repairs of nerve injuries and discovering new treatment options. Catch up on the latest research on nerve injuries.