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What is Meralgia Paresthetica?

Meralgia [mare-AL-jee-uh] paresthetica [pair-es-THET-ick-uh] is when the lateral femoral [fFEM-er-al] cutaneous [cyoo-TANE-ee-us] nerve (LFCN) becomes compressed. The LFCN is the nerve that helps you feel sensations on the outside of your thigh. When compressed, the LFCN creates a tingling, numb, burning sensation on the outside of the thigh. Most of the time, this condition is only felt on one side of the body.

Symptoms

Some symptoms of meralgia paresthetica include:

  • Tingling on the outside of the thigh
  • Numbness on the outside of the thigh
  • Pain on the outside of the thigh
  • Burning pain on the outside of the thigh
  • Sensitivity to light touch
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Sharp or shooting pain on the outside of the thigh

These symptoms may get worse after standing or walking.

When to See a Doctor

You should see your doctor if you notice you have any of the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica, especially if these symptoms don’t go away on their own after a few days. This meralgia paresthetica isn’t usually a sign for a more serious condition, but getting looked at by your doctor can help rule out other causes and keep you healthy.

Causes

Meralgia paresthetica happens when the lateral femoral nerve, which supplies sensation to the outside of your thigh, becomes trapped or compressed.

Many times, this can be caused by:

  • Weight gain or being overweight
  • Tight clothing (such as belts or tight pants)
  • Pregnancy
  • Trauma, like nerve injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Wearing a heavy tool belt
  • Nerve irritation, such as repetitive movements

Diagnosis and Tests

To diagnose meralgia paresthetica, your doctor will start by performing a brief physical exam and asking you about your symptoms and medical history. This is usually enough to diagnose the condition, but they may also want to do one or more of the following tests:

  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Electromyography (EMG) [ee-leck-tro-MY-og-raf-ee]
  • Nerve conduction study
  • CT scan
  • Nerve blockade

It can be difficult to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms to meralgia paresthetica. Be patient while you work with your doctor on a diagnosis.

Treatments

Most of the time, this condition can be treated very simply, such as by losing weight or wearing looser clothing. Your doctor might also have you do certain exercises that can reduce the numbness and tingling you feel in the thigh. Physical therapy can help, but usually isn’t necessary to feel better.

Prevention

Although not every case of meralgia paresthetica can be prevented, such as those caused by pregnancy, this condition can sometimes be prevented by wearing looser clothing and maintaining a healthy weight.

Meralgia paresthetica is when the nerve that helps you feel things on the outside of your thigh becomes compressed. This might be because of weight gain or tight clothing. Most of the time, this condition is only felt on one side of the body.