My Doctor Online The Permanente Medical Group

Are you having back pain with any of the following?

  • Severe pain, weakness or tingling in your leg(s).
  • Difficulty stopping urination or loss of control of bladder or bowels.
  • Unexplained fever, nausea or vomiting.
  • A history of cancer or unexplained weight loss.

We understand that you are experiencing one or more of the health issues that might be impacting your back pain.

We recommend that you discuss these health issues with your doctor before proceeding with this program.

Once you are cleared by your doctor to do this program, we hope it helps you find relief from your back pain.

Burning Thigh Pain (Meralgia Parasthetica)

Overview

Burning thigh pain, also called meralgia parasthetica, is caused by pressure on the femoral lateral cutaneous nerve that gives sensation to the surface of the skin on the front and side of the thigh. Most people with meralgia paresthetica describe a burning pain in the thigh. 

A number of factors can increase pressure on the nerve including excess weight, pregnancy weight, surgery, or excessively tight clothing. In most cases, meralgia paresthetica goes away on its own. In other cases, we may need to consider treatment options to reduce pressure on the nerve.

Symptoms

Burning thigh pain causes a number of sensations that include: 

  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensation at the upper outer thigh
  • No sensation when you touch the skin on your upper outer thigh

Diagnosis

We base our diagnosis on your medical history, including what you tell us about your symptoms, and a physical examination. We may also order other studies if we think that another condition may be causing your symptoms. 

Medical history

We will ask you about your medical history and ask you a number of questions about your symptoms. These will include:

  • What kind of sensations do you feel in your thigh?
  • Do those sensations go anywhere else?
  • When did you first notice symptoms in your thigh?
  • What makes the pain feel better and/or worse? 
  • Do your symptoms stop you from going to work or exercising?

Physical examination

We will perform a physical examination of the hip and thigh area and ask you to show us exactly where your symptoms are located. We will also examine your back and your knees, to rule out problems in those areas that could be causing your symptoms.

Additional tests

We may order additional tests to confirm your diagnosis. For example, we may order an X-ray of the hip and pelvic area.  

Causes and Risk Factors

Burning thigh pain is caused by something pressing on, or pinching, the femoral lateral cutaneous nerve. The femoral lateral cutaneous nerve, which originates in the spine and extends to the outer thigh, is a sensory nerve that gives feeling to the skin of your outer thigh. It does not affect strength. There are a number of conditions and injuries that may increase pressure on the nerve or cause it to become trapped. These include:

  • Posture. Standing with your hip extended for long periods of time will stretch the nerve.
  • Obesity. Lower belly fat can push on the nerve.
  • Tight clothes. Clothing or a belt that is too tight at the waist may compress the nerve.
  • Scar tissue. Scar tissue in the groin area (for example, from a C-section) may compress the nerve.
  • Seat belt injuries. An injury to the pelvic area during a car crash can injure the nerve.
  • Pregnancy. Weight gained during pregnancy may cause pressure on the nerve. 
  • Diabetes. Uncontrolled high blood sugar can damage the nerves.

Treatment

If your symptoms are mild

Often, meralgia parasthetica is a temporary problem that goes away on its own. Sometimes it is clear what is causing pressure on the nerve, and you can take steps to relieve it. For example, if you wear tight clothing, we will recommend that you try wearing clothes that are looser around the waist. If you are carrying extra weight, talk to us about losing and maintaining a healthy weight.

Usually, symptoms related to pregnancy weight will begin to diminish as soon as the baby is born.

If your symptoms persist

If you still have symptoms 2 months later, we may recommend ibuprofen or other medications to treat nerve-related pain. We occasionally recommend a steroid injection into the thigh area to reduce pain and inflammation.  

We rarely need to use surgery to treat meralgia parasthetica. If your symptoms persist for many months and become disabling, we may consider surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve. Surgery does not always help, and it may actually cause more scar tissue and worsen your symptoms.

Additional References:

Related Health Tools:

Interactive Programs

If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder.

This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.