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Chiropractic Care for Meralgia Paresthetica

Published Date: 
December 20, 2023
Close-up of a woman holding her thigh due to meralgia paresthetica pain.

Meralgia paresthetica, which is closely linked to lateral femoral cutaneous nerve entrapment, occurs when someone experiences numbness, tingling, or burning in the outer thigh. The sensations develop due to compression of the nerve that feeds the skin of the thigh. 

The most common causes of meralgia paresthetica include obesity, pregnancy, injury to the nerve, and the wearing of tight clothing. For many, wearing looser clothing is enough to relieve discomfort. However, there are more severe cases that require aggressive treatment.

For many, treatment of meralgia paresthetica includes chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatments focus on the relationship between the nervous system and the spine. When misalignment occurs in the spine, it affects the function of the nervous system and can cause numbness and tingling in various locations in the body. Chiropractic treatment for meralgia paresthetic attempts to relieve the compression of the nerve and restore proper communication between the brain and nervous system.

Cutaneous Nerve Entrapment and the Development of Meralgia Paresthetica

Cutaneous nerve entrapment causes the development of meralgia paresthetica. The nerve travels through the groin into the upper thigh. When it becomes pinched or entrapped, it can cause problems.

This nerve is responsible for supplying sensations to the surface of your thigh skin. The problem only affects the feeling in your thigh. People with this nerve pinched or compressed have no issue using their leg muscles, but the sensations caused by the condition can be uncomfortable.

The compression of this nerve causes symptoms such as burning, numbness, and tingling in the outer thigh. A variety of things can lead to nerve compression, including obesity, prolonged standing, tight clothing, and injury.

The condition is diagnosed using: 

  • Physical examination, including strength and reflex testing
  • X-rays to rule out other potential causes of symptoms
  • CT scans and MRIs to rule out tumors and other probable causes of pain.
  • Nerve blockade is a procedure that injects anesthesia for pain relief at the region where the nerve passes through
  • Nerve conduction studies measure how fast electrical signals travel through the nerves
  • Electromyography (EMG) to diagnose nerve and muscle disorders

Numbness in the thigh might also be caused by:

  • Muscle strain
  • Femoral nerve dysfunction
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Pinched nerve
  • Sciatica

Common Causes & Symptoms

The most common causes of meralgia paresthetica include:

  • Wearing tight clothing, especially pants, belts, and corsets
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of a heavy and tight tool belt
  • Scar tissue near the inguinal ligament from surgery or injury
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen causes pressure
  • Nerve injury
  • Risk Factors

Several factors increase a person’s risk of developing meralgia paresthetica. For example:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity or excess body weight
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Lead poisoning
  • Seatbelt injury from a car accident
  • Pregnancy
  • Hip surgery
  • Legs of differing lengths
  • Scoliosis
  • Wearing tight clothing
  • Age (people between the ages of 30 and 60 have the highest risk of developing the condition)

Medical Treatment Options 

In many cases, symptoms of meralgia paresthetica resolve independently after a few weeks or months. You can enhance your body’s healing ability by:

  • Avoiding tight clothing
  • Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Using at-home or over-the-counter pain relief medications if necessary

There are also additional medical treatment options available that include:

  • Corticosteroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. These injections can trigger a variety of side effects, including pain, whitening of skin, joint infection, and nerve damage.
  • Gabapentin, phenytoin, and pregabalin to relieve pain. These are anti-seizure medications prescribed off-label to ease the pain of meralgia paresthetica. Side effects of these medications include dizziness, lightheadedness, constipation, nausea, and drowsiness.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants to relieve pain. Side effects of these drugs include constipation, dry mouth, drowsiness, and impaired sexual function.

In severe cases, surgery is recommended for treating meralgia paresthetica. This is only the case when someone has a chronic, severe issue that has not responded to other treatment options.

One study explored multiple treatment options to address the pain that sometimes develops in cases of meralgia paresthetica. The study looked at patients who underwent either injection, neurolysis, or neurectomy for treatment. The study showed optimal pain relief was experienced by those who underwent neurectomy, accompanied by the lowest incidence of revision procedures.

Despite the potential effectiveness of surgery or any other invasive treatments for the condition, it’s important to remember the possible side effects of aggressive treatment. Many medical professionals recommend surgery only in severe cases when other treatment options have failed.

Meralgia Paresthetica Management Techniques Used in Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a safe, all-natural, and effective treatment option for meralgia paresthetica.

Chiropractic adjustments manipulate the spine to realign vertebrae and restore normal communication and function along the spinal cord and throughout the nervous system. These adjustments are used to reduce the pressure of cutaneous nerve compression, which alleviates the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica.

In addition to adjustments, chiropractors also use soft tissue therapy like massage. This relieves muscle tension in the affected areas and supports the body’s natural inclination to heal. They’ll also recommend exercises and stretches that improve mobility and increase overall strength.

Finally, patients receive recommendations to help reduce their risk of developing the condition and ease the symptoms, such as dietary and lifestyle changes to help with weight loss.

Thigh massage.

Self-Care Tips for Managing Meralgia Paresthetica at Home

There are several things you can do on your own to manage the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica. The goal of self-care is to remove any stress factors that contribute to the condition.

For example, many people experience numbness and tingling because their clothing is too tight. Tight clothing also exacerbates the symptoms of the condition when it’s caused by other factors. If you develop meralgia paresthetica due to an injury or disease, wearing loose-fitting clothing reduces the severity of your symptoms.

It’s also helpful to lose weight because it can contribute directly and indirectly to the condition. Excess body weight puts greater pressure on your nerves. Additionally, it increases your risk of developing diabetes, which is a contributing factor of meralgia paresthetica.

It’s also essential to prevent tightness of the hip flexor muscles because that can contribute to numbness and tingling. You can do this by applying moist heat to the area, followed by specific stretches that target the area. Ultimately, your goal is to increase the range of motion and mobility and strengthen the abdomen, core, and surrounding areas.

Healthy foods, exercise equipment, and a scale.

Exercise Recommendations and Guidelines

There are several specific exercises you can use to alleviate discomfort from meralgia paresthetica. Your chiropractor can demonstrate the proper way to do these exercises. Exercises include:

  • Clamshells
  • Lunges
  • Quadriceps stretch
  • Kneeling hip flexor stretch
  • Aerobic activities
Woman stretching her thigh on a forested path.

Body Armor Wear Considerations

There are reports of people wearing body armor developing meralgia paresthetica. There is no specific medical study linking the condition to the use of body armor. Still, anecdotally, there is a relationship, so it’s important for anyone using body armor to consider their risk.

Two cases of active duty males were reported to have developed numbness in their upper lateral thighs shortly after their deployment to Iraq and their use of body armor during that time. Each was diagnosed with meralgia paresthetica. They experienced no additional motor deficits. Doctors associated their use of protective body armor with the development of their symptoms.

Other Lifestyle Changes to Manage Symptoms of Meralgia Paresthetica

In addition to chiropractic treatment and other treatment options available for managing meralgia paresthetica, it’s also important to:

  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Lose weight if you’re overweight

Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Meralgia Paresthetica

Using chiropractic treatment to deal with the symptoms of meralgia paresthetica offers a variety of benefits. Chiropractic treatments provide immediate relief of the tingling sensations experienced by those with the condition. Adjustments also restore proper nerve function. Chiropractic adjustments are used in conjunction with soft tissue therapy to relieve discomfort in the surrounding areas.

Many people experience both range of motion and mobility issues, and they compensate for problems in the affected area, which can lead to secondary pain issues. Chiropractic care addresses the primary issue, as well as the problems that arise due to meralgia paresthetica. Treatment also addresses the root cause of the problem and, when possible, helps the patient resolve the root cause.

You should seek immediate medical attention if numbness or tingling in the thigh is accompanied by any of the following:

  • Dull ache in the affected region
  • Pain that radiates from your thigh to your groin or rear
  • Difficulty walking
  • Difficulty sleeping

Dr. Darren Faherty D.C.

In 2004, Dr. Darren Faherty graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology from UWEC - University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. Dr. Darren continued education at the highly esteemed University of Western States (formerly Western States Chiropractic College) where he obtained his chiropractic degree in 2007. He has been helping people recover from injuries and return to their normal lifestyles ever since.

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