The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve provides sensation to the outer upper thigh region. When compressed, stretched or damaged, it leads to a condition called meralgia paresthetica, which is characterised by tingling, numbness or burning in this region. The symptoms usually present on one side in or on the surface of your outer upper thigh. Motor functions are not affected.
Meralgia paresthetica may be caused by local trauma, wearing tight clothing or seat belt, weight gain, pregnancy or diabetes. This usually results in the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve being compressed by the inguinal ligament, which runs through the groin.
When you present to the clinic with pain in your outer thigh, your doctor will review your medical history and perform a physical examination. A hip or pelvic X-ray may be obtained to rule out other causes. Electromyography and nerve conduction tests may be ordered to diagnose muscle or nerve disorders. An anaesthetic may be injected to numb the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve and identify it as the source of your symptoms.
Meralgia paresthetica is usually treated by eradicating the cause of nerve compression. Your doctor may suggest conservative methods such as weight control and wearing loose clothing. Over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressant and anti-seizure medications may be prescribed or steroid injections administered. Rare cases of severe and refractory symptoms are treated by surgery to decompress the nerve.