The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve is a pure sensory nerve that exits the pelvis over the superior brim of the pelvis (the front of the pelvis) in the area of a tunnel created by the pelvic rim and Poupart’s ligament. This nerve can be trapped in the groin just like the median nerve can in carpel tunnel syndrome of the wrist. Symptoms that develop occur in the anterolateral (front and outside) portion of the thigh. Since the nerve is purely sensory (there is no motor portion that goes with this nerve), symptoms are numbness, paresthesias (pins and needles) and possibly pain. Weakness is not part of this syndrome.
The most common causes of Meralgia Paresthetica are an overhanging belly (Dunlop’s syndrome where the belly “dun lops” over the pelvis) and by wearing a heavy utility belt (such as a carpenter or police officer does). Another common cause is prolonged positioning in surgery. Surgical positioning prone (face down-which is a common position with back surgery) utilizes pads over the anterior pelvis that the patient’s midsection rests on. The lateral femoral cutaneous nerve can be aggravated by prolonged compression due to prolonged surgery.
The condition is annoying but not dangerous. There is no muscle or joint that is supplied by this nerve.
Most treatment protocols include just “waiting it out”. The nerve symptoms will generally improve over time. You can try stretching the muscles of this region to gain some relief. There are rare occasions where an injection of steroid can improve the symptoms and extremely rare cases where this nerve can be surgically decompressed.
(Click to Enlarge Image) Meralgia Paresthetica Pain Diagram
Donald Corenman, MD, DC is a highly-regarded spine surgeon, considered an expert in the area of neck and back pain. Trained as both a Medical Doctor and Doctor of Chiropractic, Dr. Corenman earned academic appointments as Clinical Assistant Professor and Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and his research on spine surgery and rehabilitation has resulted in the publication of multiple peer-reviewed articles and two books.