By: Mark Castleden
Thigh pain: A pain on the outer side of the thigh may mean that one of the large sensory nerves to your leg is being compressed. This condition is known as meralgia paresthetica. Therefore, thigh pain can be a symptom of Meralgia Paresthetica
In this article:
I have been having some problems around my right outside thigh area. I get a pain like an electrical shock, even when I cough it pulls and produces that sensation. Also it hurts even to have my bed sheet lying on top of the area. It also burns deep down inside my thigh. What could be happening?
The nerves in your body bring information to the brain about the environment (sensory nerves) and messages from the brain to activate muscles (motor nerves). To do this, nerves must pass over, under, around and through your joints, bones, and muscles. Usually, there is enough room to permit easy passage. But swelling, injury, or pressure can narrow these openings and squeeze the nerve. When that happens, there may be pain, paralysis, or some other dysfunction.
A painful, burning sensation on the outer side of the thigh may mean that one of the large sensory nerves (the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) to your leg is being compressed. This condition is known as meralgia paresthetica.
Thigh Pain can be a symptom of meralgia paresthetica, here are the others:
- Pain on the outer side of the thigh, as you describe, occasionally extending to the outer side of the knee
- A burning sensation, tingling, or numbness in the same area
- Occasionally, aching in the groin area or pain spreading across the buttocks
- Usually only one side of the body is affected
- It's usually more sensitive to light touch than to firm pressure, such as you describe while in bed.
Your physician will ask about recent surgeries, injury to the hip, or repetitive activities that could irritate the nerve. He or she will also check for any sensory differences between the affected leg and your other leg. To verify the site of the burning pain, the physician will put some pressure on the nerve to reproduce the sensation. You may need an abdominal examination to exclude any problems in this area. If you are female the physician may do a pelvic exam as well.
X-rays will help identify any bone abnormalities that might be putting pressure on the nerve. If your physician suspects that a disc problem, bony spurs, or a growth such as a tumor is the source of the pressure, you may need to get an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT (computed tomography) scan. In rare cases, a nerve conduction study may be advised.
Restrictive clothing and weight gain are two common reasons for pressure on a nerve. Contributing factors are wearing a heavy tool belt, corset, girdle and similar conditions where pressure on a nerve may be intensified. If you're overweight, a weight loss program would be indicated.
Treatment will vary, depending on the source of the pressure. The goal is to remove the cause of the compression. This may mean resting from an aggravating activity, losing weight, wearing loose clothing, or using a toolbox instead of wearing a tool belt. In more severe cases, your physician may give you an injection of a corticosteroid preparation to reduce inflammation. This generally relieves the symptoms for some time. In rare cases, surgery is needed to release the nerve.
Other causes of your symptoms include what are known as myofascial syndromes involving the hip and thigh muscles. If this is found to be the problem, physical therapy would help.
Finally, we should mention the possibility that a form of diabetic neuropathy, called proximal neuropathy, can cause the symptoms you have complained of. Your doctor will certainly want to know if you have any diabetic symptoms, and may want you to have a fasting blood sugar level done.
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