Also called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, meralgia paresthetica is caused by compression or pinching of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. This nerve supplies sensation to the skin surface of your thigh.
Compression of this nerve causes numbness, tingling, stinging, or burning pain on the surface of your thigh, but it does not affect your ability to use your leg muscles.
Since meralgia paresthetica is often caused by weight gain, obesity, pregnancy, or even tight clothing, sometimes simple changes — such as wearing looser clothing — can relieve the symptoms. Your doctor might also suggest losing excess weight.
If the discomfort is too much of a distraction or hinderance in daily life, your doctor might recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever such as:
Some people have also found relief through strengthening and stretching exercises focused on the lower back, core, pelvis and hips.
Meralgia paresthetica can also be the result of trauma to the thigh or a disease, such as diabetes. In this case, recommended treatment may include medications to relieve symptoms or, in rare cases, surgery.
If your pain is severe or your symptoms have not responded to more conservative treatment methods for more than 2 months, your doctor might recommend:
- Corticosteroid injections to temporarily relieve pain and reduce inflammation
- Tricyclic antidepressants to relieve the pain for some people with meralgia paresthetica
- Anti-seizure medications to help reduce pain. Your doctor might prescribe gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise), pregabalin (Lyrica), or phenytoin (Dilantin).
- In rare cases, surgery. Surgical decompression of the nerve is an option only for people with severe and long-lasting symptoms.
Often, the numbness, tingling, or pain of meralgia paresthetica can be remedied with simple steps such as weight loss, exercise, or wearing looser clothing.
If initial treatment is not effective for you, your doctor has a number of medication options, such as corticosteroids, tricyclic antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications.
If you have severe, long-lasting symptoms, your doctor may consider surgical approaches for treating your meralgia paresthetica.