What is Meralgia Paresthetica?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Meralgia paresthetica may occur in pregnant woman because of pressure placed on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve during pregnancy.
Meralgia paresthetica may occur in pregnant woman because of pressure placed on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve during pregnancy.

The body has two lateral femoral cutaneous nerves, one on each side of the body. They attach to the spine, and then run down the outer part of the thigh, helping to create sensation and nerve response in the outer thigh. If one of these nerves becomes compressed, it can cause a condition called meralgia paresthetica, which can result in sensations of tingling, burning or a numb or dull feeling on the outer thigh.

People who are overweight may be susceptible to meralgia paresthetica.
People who are overweight may be susceptible to meralgia paresthetica.

There are many things that might cause meralgia paresthetica or compression of a lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Sometimes the condition occurs when people are pregnant because there is pressure on the nerve. Alternately, some overweight people may have this trouble as well. Something as minor as wearing tight clothing, sitting and/or especially biking for long periods of time could result in this condition too. On the other hand, actual damage to the nerve may have occurred through traumatic injury or conditions like diabetes.

Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include numbness in the buttocks.
Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include numbness in the buttocks.

As previously stated, the main symptom of meralgia paresthetica is a numb, burning or tingling sensation on the outer thigh. Some people may also have numbness in the buttocks on the affected side. It should be noted that it’s rare for symptoms to occur on both sides of the body. Usually only one nerve is compressed or damaged and this would only change feelings on the side of the body that nerve inhabits.

Ibuprofen may be recommended to dull the burning pain associated with meralgia parasthetica.
Ibuprofen may be recommended to dull the burning pain associated with meralgia parasthetica.

People who note these symptoms may want to see a doctor, as nerve damage could be present and the condition is not minor. Doctors will probably assess each patient for common causes. They might ask about weight gain, pregnancy, common types of activity, whether clothing worn is usually tight, and whether any accidents or injuries have recently occurred. The goal is to narrow down cause and if possible, rule out conditions like diabetes that might result in meralgia paresthetica.

Treatment for meralgia paresthetica typically depends on the cause of the condition.
Treatment for meralgia paresthetica typically depends on the cause of the condition.

Once diagnosed, treatment may very much depend on cause. Often changing some behaviors is all that is needed. For instance, the overweight person might need to lose a few pounds to alleviate compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. Pregnant women will usually see an end to this problem after they deliver their babies. People who have this problems caused by sitting in certain types of environments might require a different kind of seat.

Wearing tight clothing may cause meralgia paresthetica.
Wearing tight clothing may cause meralgia paresthetica.

When meralgia paresthetica is causing burning pain, doctors may recommend medications to promote greater comfort. These could include over the counter drugs like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Should the condition not be improve, other medications might be tried. Usually these interventions are sufficient but if pain still persists, doctors could recommend surgery to treat the affected nerve and end compression. This is usually a treatment of last resort and physicians don’t typically favor an aggressive approach to meralgia paresthetica, unless clearly medically indicated.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon300397

Can sleeping in an odd position cause this too? I just noticed it today and I've been the same weight for years now and now out of the blue, bam! My left outer leg and foot are somewhat numb.

anon108618

what can I do for this besides taking pills? I'm not overweight, pregnant or have diabetes.

anon80703

I found that there was not much information- and I was disappointed as neither the chiropractor nor the specialist seemed to think it was not a big deal!

Any exercises? What positive thing can you do to correct since surgery is out of the question. I have been dealing with this for 1 1/2 years- that's long enough!

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    • Meralgia paresthetica may occur in pregnant woman because of pressure placed on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve during pregnancy.
      Meralgia paresthetica may occur in pregnant woman because of pressure placed on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve during pregnancy.
    • People who are overweight may be susceptible to meralgia paresthetica.
      People who are overweight may be susceptible to meralgia paresthetica.
    • Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include numbness in the buttocks.
      Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica may include numbness in the buttocks.
    • Ibuprofen may be recommended to dull the burning pain associated with meralgia parasthetica.
      Ibuprofen may be recommended to dull the burning pain associated with meralgia parasthetica.
    • Treatment for meralgia paresthetica typically depends on the cause of the condition.
      Treatment for meralgia paresthetica typically depends on the cause of the condition.
    • Wearing tight clothing may cause meralgia paresthetica.
      Wearing tight clothing may cause meralgia paresthetica.