Meralgia paresthetica is caused by the compression of one of the large sensory nerves in the leg — the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This nerve provides sensation to the skin along the outer thigh starting from the inguinal ligament and extending down toward the knee. Compression of this nerve can result in numbness, tingling, pain or a burning sensation felt in the outer thigh.
Meralgia Paresthetica: What You Need to Know
The condition is also called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome.
Proper diagnosis of the underlying cause of the nerve compression is essential for effective treatment.
Treatment may include physical therapy, weight loss, nerve block, injections or surgery.
Meralgia Paresthetica Symptoms
The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve branches off the lumbar plexus, a network of nerves that connects the spinal cord in the lower back with the motor and sensory nerves of the legs and lower body. It provides sensation to the front and sides of the thigh. This is a pure sensory nerve and does not operate any muscles.
Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include:
Burning sensation felt in the top or outer side of the thigh
Tingling or numbness
More sensitivity on light touch than on deep pressure
Meralgia Paresthetica Diagnosis
Diagnosis is necessary to determine the cause of meralgia paresthetica so the doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment plan, including surgery if it is deemed necessary.
Diagnostic steps may include:
Complete medical history
A comprehensive clinical exam, including neurological exams
Imaging studies such as MRI
Electrodiagnostic studies (EMG)
Diagnostic nerve block
What causes meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paresthetica is caused by irritation of the nerve, most commonly from entrapment. The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, which runs through the pelvis, groin and into the thighs, can become compressed due to swelling, trauma or pressure in the surrounding areas.
Common causes of meralgia paresthetica may include:
Repetitive motion of the legs
Recent injuries to the hip
Wearing tight clothing or heavy belts
Meralgia Paresthetica Treatment
Depending on the underlying cause of pressure on the nerve, the doctor may recommend one or more of the following therapies:
Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles of the legs and buttocks, and reduce injury to the hips
Wearing less restrictive clothing
Weight loss management
Corticosteroid injection to reduce swelling
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve the compression surrounding the nerve.