Many factors can cause numbness in the thigh. These include keeping the legs crossed for too long, wearing tight clothing, multiple sclerosis (MS), and lupus. Treatment options depend on what is causing the numbness.
From conditions affecting blood flow to damage to the nerves themselves, there are many potential causes of numbness in the thigh. Depending on the cause, there are also many treatments available.
This article will cover some common underlying causes of numbness in one or both thighs. We also discuss treatment options.
Meralgia paresthetica is a neurological condition that causes numbness or tingling on the outer and front aspect of the thigh.
According to an article in the journal Pain Medicine, the condition is most common in people aged 30–40 years.
Meralgia paresthetica may develop following trauma to the thigh. However, a person can also develop it as a result of obesity, pregnancy, and issues that increase pressure within the abdomen, such as an abdominal hernia.
On rare occasions, a herniated disk in the lower back can also cause this condition to develop. Wearing tight clothing around the waist, such as a tight belt, can also give rise to meralgia paresthetica.
Most cases of meralgia paresthetica will go away without treatment. In minor cases, doctors tend to advise people to wear looser clothing or lose weight.
For cases of meralgia paresthetica that do not go away, a doctor may administer a nerve block. This involves injecting numbing medications to the areas around the affected nerves. There are also several medications that can help with the symptoms.
Doctors may also recommend making some lifestyle changes to promote nerve transmission and blood flow. These may include:
- getting as much as physical activity as possible
- adopting a nutritious diet to lose weight
- wearing looser clothing
In rare instances, a doctor may recommend surgical treatment. This is usually the case when a person has experienced a trauma or undergone a surgical procedure that has damaged the skin and nearby nerves.
People whose lupus affects their peripheral nervous system may have symptoms in their extremities, including their thighs. In these areas, they may experience:
There is no specific test to confirm a lupus diagnosis. However, doctors can use imaging scans, blood tests, and a description of the person’s symptoms to determine if they have the condition.
There is currently no cure for lupus. Doctors will usually recommend treatments such as:
- nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- other medications
Eating a healthful diet, engaging in regular exercise, and refraining from smoking can all help people with lupus live more healthfully.
Numbness or tingling in the lower extremities is a common initial symptom for people with MS.
MS usually only causes numbness on one side of the body. MS affects the brain and spinal cord by attacking the protective fibers on the outside of a person’s nerves.
Because of this, MS affects the ability of nerve transmissions to communicate. The result can be tingling, numbness, and an overall loss of sensation.
Currently, there is no cure for MS.
Doctors tend to treat MS with medications such as steroids. They may also suggest plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis. Plasma exchange involves separating the plasma from the blood cells.
A doctor may prescribe disease modifying medications that can help slow the progression of the condition.
Other treatment options include physical therapy and muscle relaxants to reduce spasms.
A person may develop a tumor in the soft tissues of their thigh. This tumor might then press on the nerves and blood vessels, causing tingling and numbness. Doctors call these tumors “soft tissue sarcomas.”
In addition to numbness, a person may experience pain, nausea, vomiting, or swelling at the site of the thigh.
Treatments for a thigh tumor depend on the specific area the tumor affects. A doctor will usually recommend surgical removal of the tumor.
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a condition that occurs when excess amounts of plaque build up in the blood vessels in the thighs.
When plaque builds up, it affects blood flow and causes symptoms such as numbness and pain in the thighs.
In addition to thigh numbness, PAD can cause symptoms such as:
- pain when climbing stairs
- a heavy feeling in the leg muscles
- skin that feels cooler on one side of the leg than the other
- skin that is pale or bluish
- slower toenail or leg hair growth on the affected limb
- weak pulse in the legs and feet
- sores on the feet and legs that are slow to heal
A doctor may identify the condition by feeling a person’s pulse and comparing the blood pressure in both legs.
Treatment options for PAD depend on its progression. Doctors may recommend surgical techniques to restore blood flow to the leg. Examples include bypass grafting as well as angioplasty and stent placement.
Doctors may also recommend making lifestyle changes to promote better blood flow to the legs. Examples include:
- stopping smoking
- following a heart-healthy diet
- increasing physical activity
When something compresses the nerves that provide sensation to a certain area of the body, it is called a pinched nerve. These can affect the thighs and surrounding areas, including the buttocks and lower back.
Pinched nerves in this area can occur due to a narrowing of the spinal canal or a slipped disk in the back. In addition to thigh numbness, symptoms of a pinched nerve in this area may include:
- pain that shoots down the leg
- back pain
- problems moving or walking comfortably
- weakness on one or both sides of the body
If a person is experiencing symptoms such as difficulty pushing off with the foot or a loss of bowel or bladder control, they should seek immediate medical attention.
Doctors may be able to treat a pinched nerve with conservative measures. These may include physical therapy exercises and NSAIDs.
If a person’s symptoms do not get better, a doctor may recommend surgery to correct the underlying cause of the pinched nerve.
Additional potential causes of numbness in the thigh include:
- Diabetic neuropathy: Nerve damage due to diabetes can also cause thigh numbness. Although most symptoms of diabetic neuropathy cause tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, the condition may also affect the thighs.
- Obesity: Obesity can create additional pressure on the nerves. Carrying excess weight is a risk factor for conditions such as meralgia paresthetica.
- Tight clothing: Wearing very tight clothing can restrict blood flow, which may result in numbness in the thigh.
A person should seek immediate medical care if they cannot feel a pulse in their leg, if the leg is cold to the touch, or if the leg appears very pale. These symptoms indicate that there is little to no blood flow.
A person should see a doctor as quickly as possible if they have the following symptoms:
- numbness in the leg on most days of the week
- pain or tingling in the leg
- periodic episodes of weakness in the leg
A doctor will be able to evaluate the potential underlying causes and recommend treatments.
Numbness in the thigh is not always a cause for concern.
Making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or wearing looser clothing to promote blood flow, can help reduce thigh numbness.
If symptoms persist or occur alongside muscle weakness or pain, a person should see their doctor as soon as possible.