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, specifically the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.
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.
Usually, you’ll notice the warning signs of meralgia paresthetica only on one side of your body. You might feel:
- 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.
Nerves travel throughout your body, carrying messages to and from your brain. A certain set of nerves, called the sensory nerves, gather and send signals to your brain about your skin, muscles, and other tissues.
If you have meralgia paresthetica, a large sensory nerve in your outer thigh doesn’t have enough room to pass through your hip bone or joints. This may be due to swelling, trauma, or increased pressure in this area.
A lot of things can squeeze or damage the nerve, including:
- Weight gain and obesity
- Tight clothing
- Injury, such as trauma from a seatbelt during a car crash
- A disease that can damage the nerves, like diabetes
- Repetitive motions that could irritate the nerve, such as certain leg movements
- Standing or walking for a long time
Your doctor will give you a physical exam and ask about your symptoms and your medical history -- especially about any recent injuries or surgeries. The doctor will touch your leg to find the affected area. He will check for any neurological abnormalities of the lower leg.
It can be hard to tell the difference between meralgia paresthetica and other back, hip, or groin conditions. Be patient as you work with your doctor to find the right diagnosis.
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.