Meralgia paresthetica, also referred to as Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, is a numbness, burning, or tingling sensation felt in the outer thigh. This condition can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from weight to wearing tight clothing and can usually be treated without invasive procedures or surgery. Continue reading to discover what causes meralgia paresthetica, which symptoms to look out for, how it is diagnosed, as well as some treatment and pain relief techniques.
The most common symptoms of meralgia paresthetica will occur on only one side and include pain, tingling or burning on the outer thigh, increased sensitivity to heat and an increased sensitivity to even the lightest touch.
Meralgia paresthetica can be caused by a variety of issues ranging from minor factors like tight clothing to more severe conditions such as diabetes. It occurs when the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve—which supplies sensation to the surface of the outer thigh—becomes compressed or trapped. This nerve runs through the groin to the upper thigh and can become trapped under the inguinal ligament.
The most common issues that cause meralgia paresthetica are wearing clothes that are too tight such as corsets, tight jeans, and belts, weight gain or obesity, wearing a heavy tool belt, and scar tissue near the ligament from a previous surgery. Nerve injury can also occur from trauma such as a seatbelt injury or medical conditions like diabetes and result in the burning or tingling sensation.
To diagnose meralgia paresthetica, your physician will first conduct a physical exam and review your symptoms and medical history. They may also call for tests like an MRI or x-ray to get a better look at your leg as well as an electromyography or EMG. An EMG is conducted by placing sensors on your leg that have small needles meant to penetrate the muscle and measure the electricity in your muscles and nerves. During this test, you will be asked to flex and relax your leg so the EMG can record how the electrical activity changes. Finally, a nerve conduction study—in which your doctor will place two sensors over the affected area—may be conducted to see how quickly electrical signals travel through your nerves.
Treating meralgia paresthetica may be as simple as wearing less restrictive clothing or going onto a weight loss plan. Minor cases of meralgia paresthetica may also be treated using heat and ice or over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen. However, the condition may also require physical therapy or surgery in more severe cases.
To relieve the pain associated with meralgia paresthetica, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend a series of exercises that can loosen stiffness and build muscle. These exercises include:
Cat-camel: This yoga pose begins with you on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and knees below your hips. Arch your back slowly, lifting your chest and eyes to look at the ceiling, and hold the position for approximately 15 to 30 seconds. Return to your starting position then arch your back the other way, letting your head drop and relax. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and return to start. Repeat this exercise three to five times.
Quadriceps stretch: Stand facing the wall with one hand on the wall to keep your balance, then bend your leg at the knee and bring your foot back towards your rear. With your free hand, reach back and grasp your foot, pulling it closer to your body until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side. Complete this stretch three times per leg.
Lunges: Stand tall with your hands on your hips then take one large step forward with your right leg, bending your knees and lowering your body until your left knee touches the floor. Return to the starting position then repeat, leading with the left leg this time. Complete this exercise 10 to 15 times per side for three sets.
Bridging: Lay flat on you back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Raise your hips slowly until your body is in a straight line, pushing your heels into the ground and squeezing your glutes. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for two or three sets.
So, if you are experiencing this sensation, talk to your doctor to determine the underlying cause before attempting any of the pain management exercises outlined above.