Meralgia Paresthetica: Diagnosis And What Causes The Condition

Meralgia paresthetica is the Latin name given to compression of a nerve in the thigh called the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve. It is a similar problem to the carpal tunnel which is a compression of the median nerve in the wrist and both can cause a lot of pain and discomfort. As such, meralgia paresthetica affects a lot of people but it is a greatly unknown and misunderstood condition. This article is a guide to everything that you need to know about a meralgia paresthetica diagnosis and its causes. 

What are the Causes of Meralgia Paresthetica?

The condition is caused by a compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve which is found in the thigh. In many cases, meralgia paresthetica causes pain or discomfort but is important to note that the clinical symptoms are similar to those of trauma or nerve damage as the result of the surgical complications.

meralgia paresthetica

Anyone who is experiencing the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica should not assume that the nerve is compressed because it may have been damaged in another way. The only way to know for sure is to go and see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

How Will Patients Experience the Symptoms of Meralgia Paresthetica?

There is a wide range of clinical symptoms that are caused by meralgia paresthetica. The symptoms may present themselves as just a little numbness in the skin on the side and front of the patient’s thigh that extends up to where the thigh and the buttocks meet. In more serious cases, this numbness can rise to the level of pain. Different patients describe this pain differently; some compare it to a burning sensation whilst others describe a constant ache or stabbing pain. Again, these sensations may be the result of nerve compression but they may also be the result of something else so make sure to see a doctor.


If a patient’s condition is a recent development, they have only been experiencing their pain or discomfort for a few months, then placing a steroidal nerve block is often sufficient for permanently fixing an early meralgia paresthetica. If however, the patient has had the condition for many years, this solution will not usually be effective. In this case, at the very least, a surgical nerve decompression of the nerve will need to be implemented.

It may be that the doctor concludes that the nerve has sustained a direct injury around the hip and thigh area. In this case, decompressing the nerve is not going to provide the patient with adequate relief. The only solution at this stage is to disconnect the nerve. This will not affect the patient’s mobility or strength in the leg because the nerve does not have much importance with regards to motor function.

Recovering from this condition is relatively straightforward as the surgical incision in the hip is relatively small and the necessary dissection is mostly just of skin and tissue. Where the pelvis needs dissecting, the surgeon only needs to follow a minor tunnel and so there is minor post-surgical discomfort. At most, patients will only feel the effects for a couple of weeks and then they will be fine again.

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