Meralgia paresthetica (also known as lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment) is a condition characterized by tingling, numbness and burning pain in your outer thigh. It's caused by compression of the nerve that provides sensation to the skin covering your thigh.
Tight clothing, obesity or weight gain, and pregnancy are common causes of meralgia paresthetica. However, meralgia paresthetica can also be due to local trauma or a disease, such as diabetes.
In most cases, you can relieve meralgia paresthetica with conservative measures, such as wearing looser clothing. In severe cases, treatment may include medications to relieve discomfort or, rarely, surgery.
Meralgia paresthetica may cause these symptoms affecting the outer (lateral) part of your thigh:
- Tingling and numbness
- Burning pain
- Decreased sensation
- Increased sensitivity and pain to even a light touch
These symptoms commonly occur on one side of your body and might intensify after walking or standing.
When to see your doctor
See your doctor if you have symptoms of meralgia paresthetica.
Meralgia paresthetica occurs when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve — which supplies sensation to the surface of your outer thigh — is pinched (compressed). The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve only affects sensation and doesn't affect your ability to use your leg muscles.
In most people, this nerve passes through the groin to the upper thigh without trouble. But in meralgia paresthetica, the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve becomes trapped — often under the inguinal ligament, which runs along your groin from your abdomen to your upper thigh.
Common causes of this compression include any condition that increases pressure on the groin, including:
- Tight clothing, such as belts, corsets and tight pants
- Obesity or weight gain
- Wearing a heavy tool belt
- Fluid accumulation in the abdomen causing increased abdominal pressure
- Scar tissue near the inguinal ligament due to injury or past surgery
Nerve injury, which can be due to diabetes, trauma after surgery or seat belt injury after a motor vehicle accident, for example, also can cause meralgia paresthetica.
The following might increase your risk of meralgia paresthetica:
- Extra weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the pressure on your lateral femoral cutaneous nerve.
- Pregnancy. A growing belly puts added pressure on your groin, through which the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve passes.
- Diabetes. Diabetes-related nerve injury can lead to meralgia paresthetica.
- Age. People between the ages of 30 and 60 are at a higher risk.