What to Know About Femoral Neuropathy

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on April 30, 2023
3 min read

Femoral neuropathy, also called femoral nerve dysfunction, is one possible cause of movement and sensation problems in the legs. Femoral neuropathy occurs when something affects the femoral nerve, which starts in the pelvis and goes all the way down the leg. The femoral nerve helps your leg move and gives sensation to the front of the leg.

Femoral neuropathy usually affects just one nerve, a condition known as mononeuropathy. Conditions that cause damage to multiple nerves can also cause femoral neuropathy, among other nerve issues.

The main symptoms of femoral neuropathy are pain, burning, tingling, and reduced sensations or numbness in the leg. You may also experience weakness in the affected leg. For example, it may buckle suddenly, or you may have trouble going up a flight of stairs.

Potential causes of femoral neuropathy include:

  • An injury
  • Excessive pressure on the nerve
  • Something pressing on the nerve, such as a tumor or other growth

Injury to the femoral nerve can be caused by:

  • A fractured pelvis
  • A catheter procedure in the femoral artery
  • Internal bleeding in the pelvis
  • Wearing belts that are too tight
  • Lying in the lithotomy position, similar to the common position used for childbirth, on your back with your legs bent 90 degrees

To diagnose femoral nerve dysfunction, your doctor may:

  • Take a detailed medical history
  • Give you a physical examination
  • Order electromyography to see how well your affected nerves and muscles function
  • Perform nerve conduction tests to test function in specific nerves
  • Order an MRI to check for injuries or tumors

Meraglia perasthetica, also known as Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, is a type of femoral nerve dysfunction that affects the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This portion of the femoral nerve gives sensation and feeling to the skin of your thigh. 

The symptoms of meraglia perasthetica include burning, tingling, or numbness, specifically on the skin of the thigh. These symptoms are more prevalent on the outer side of the thigh with this condition. 

This type of femoral neuropathy is usually caused by repetitive leg motions, hip injuries, weight gain, or wearing your belt too tight.

Femoral neuropathy and sciatica often have similar symptoms. Both conditions can involve weakness, tingling, numbness, burning, and pain in the legs. 

The sciatic nerve starts in your lower back and runs all the way down the back of your leg. It controls the muscles in the back of your knee, as well as other leg muscles. 

Where the two conditions differ is the cause: Pressure on or damage to the sciatic nerve causes sciatica, while pressure on the femoral nerve causes femoral neuropathy. Sciatica tends to affect the back of the leg more than the front.  

Pinpointing the location of changes in sensation can help your doctor diagnose either sciatica or femoral neuropathy, and they may recommend a diagnostic scan.  Once your doctor determines the underlying cause, your treatment will be more effective because it can target the correct area.

The treatment for femoral neuropathy depends on the cause. If there is an immediate cause like a pelvic injury, your doctor will address that first. They may prescribe medication or other treatments for pain relief.

Your doctor may recommend physical therapy or splints or other assistive devices to make walking easier and safer.

If you have a tumor or other type of growth causing compression of the nerve, your doctor may recommend surgery to remove it and relieve the pressure.

If your femoral neuropathy is caused by excess weight or diabetes, your doctor will help you to manage lifestyle factors. Losing weight can improve some cases of this condition.