Meralgia paraesthetica. Yes, the chosen name for our baby. Psych!
The lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh (also known as the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) sometimes gets entrapped or compressed between the upper front hip bone and the inguinal ligament (one of the hip ligaments).
Causes may include: obesity, pregnancy, ascites (fluid in the abdomen), tight garments, seat belts, braces, direct trauma, leg length changes, scoliosis, and muscle spasm. The nerve may also be damaged by lower abdominal and pelvic surgical incisions, or may be compressed or injured within the pelvis (eg. by tumours, abscesses and other nice things you don’t want to think about when you’re eating).
I laughed when I read that “the nerve may become painful over a period of time as weight gain makes underwear, belting or pants waistband exert higher levels of pressure”. Weight gain – check. Tight waistband – check.
Clinically, it presents with altered sensation (pins-and-needles, numbness, sometimes pain) down the outer surface of the thigh, an aching in the groin area (I guess this is different from the OTHER type of groin ache, ie. the one you have for your beloved), and a hypersensitivity to light touch and heat. Here’s a pic showing the distribution of the numbness:
Diagnosis is usually clinical (by history and physical examination). In special cases, imaging may be performed to check for bony abnormalities or other soft tissue causes (eg. X-ray, CR, MRI).
Treatment involves managing the cause – eg. Stop aggravating activity, weight loss (obviously not happening in my case), wearing clothing that is loose at the front hip area, medications. In serious cases not responding to conservative treatment, surgery may be considered, but this results in permanent numbness in the affected area.
My plan: stretching out the hip, wearing clothing loose around the hip. It’s not really affecting me that much so I’ll give the painkillers a miss for now. (Besides which, in pregnancy conservative management is recommended as the numbness resolves post-pregnancy… along with the other 234,543,234 symptoms of pregnancy).