Treatment for meralgia paraesthetica, a condition causing numbness and sometimes pain in the thigh

Meralgia paraesthetica is a common clinical condition caused by damage to the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh, resulting in pain, numbness and tingling in the front and outer side of the thigh. The diagnosis is easy to make clinically. Although not life-threatening, the condition can cause a lot of discomfort to the affected individual. A number of interventions are in common use and we wanted to examine the evidence in the literature for their efficacy. We found no randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in the original review or when searches were updated in 2010 and 2012. Local injections of corticosteroid and surgical operations were found to be effective treatments in observational studies. However, a single observational study also showed that meralgia paraesthetica improved spontaneously in the majority of cases. RCTs of treatments for meralgia paraesthetica are needed.

Authors' conclusions: 

In the absence of any published RCTs or quasi-RCTs, the objective evidence base for treatment choices in meralgia paraesthetica is weak. High quality observational studies report comparable high improvement rates for meralgia paraesthetica following local injection of corticosteroid and surgical interventions (either nerve decompression or neurectomy). However, a similar outcome has been reported without any intervention in a single natural history study.

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Meralgia paraesthetica is a clinical syndrome for which a number of treatments are in common use, including conservative measures, injection of corticosteroid with local anaesthetic and surgery. We aimed to examine the evidence for the relative efficacy of these interventions. This review was first published in 2008. Searches were updated in 2010 and 2012.


To assess the relative efficacy of commonly used treatments for meralgia paraesthetica.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Neuromuscular Disease Group Specialized Register (1 October 2012), CENTRAL (2012, issue 9 in The Cochrane Library), MEDLINE (January 1966 to October 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to October 2012) and CINAHL Plus (January 1937 to October 2012) for randomised controlled studies. Non-randomised studies were identified by searching MEDLINE (January 1966 to October 2012) and EMBASE (January 1980 to October 2012). We also inspected the reference lists of these studies.

Selection criteria: 

We were unable to identify any randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs. We therefore looked for high quality observational studies meeting the following criteria:
(1) At least five cases of meralgia paraesthetica.
(2) Follow-up of at least three months after intervention (if any).
(3) At least 80% of cases followed up.

Data collection and analysis: 

Three authors independently extracted relevant data from each study meeting the selection criteria and transferred into a data extraction form.

Main results: 

We found no RCTs or quasi-RCTs in the original review or updates in 20011 and 2012. Cure or improvement have been described in high quality observational studies:
(1) A single study describes spontaneous improvement of meralgia paraesthetica in 20 (69%) of 29 cases.
(2) Four studies evaluating the injection of corticosteroid and local anaesthetic found cure or improvement in 130 (83%) out of a combined total of 157 cases.
(3) Surgical treatments have been found to be beneficial in 264 (88%) out of 300 cases treated with decompression (nine studies); and 45 (94%) out of 48 cases treated with neurectomy (three studies).
(4) Ninety-nine (97%) out of 102 patients with iatrogenic meralgia paraesthetica recovered completely (three studies).