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Sleep is an essential part of life. Good sleep assists with healing, improves mental processing, and promotes longevity (1). But not everyone has the luxury of getting a good night’s sleep every night.
In fact, it can be incredibly difficult to sleep well with meralgia paresthetica, as the pain and discomfort can keep a person tossing and turning all night. Since sleep is key to improving general health and can actually practically assist in lessening meralgia paresthetica symptoms, keep reading to find out how to promote better sleep despite a meralgia paresthetica diagnosis.
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What is meralgia paresthetica?
Meralgia paresthetica—also known as femoral nerve pain, tingling thigh syndrome, or Bernhardt-Roth syndrome—is a condition where a nerve connected to the skin layer (medically referred to as the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve) gets compressed or ‘pinched’. When this happens, a person can feel a tingling pain, numbness, or burning sensation on their skin in and around the front and side areas of the affected thigh.
The femoral nerve is primarily responsible for skin sensation, but can also impact movement (2).
The pain caused by the pinched nerve can sometimes cause severe discomfort—both when moving around and when stationary.
What causes meralgia paresthetica?
While the condition is not incredibly common, there are several things that can cause people to develop meralgia paresthetica. Some of the more common causes are:
- Sudden weight gain or long-term obesity;
- Prolonged surgical procedures — especially those that take place in and around the lower back, hip, buttocks, and thigh areas;
- A sedentary lifestyle or prolonged post-op bed rest.
People who are most at risk of developing meralgia paresthetica include:
- Pregnant women;
- People who are overweight;
- Office workers or others who sit for prolonged periods of time;
- Construction workers or others who often lean against hard objects or wear heavy-duty belts for extended periods.
Wearing tight clothes, especially around the hip area, can also cause femoral nerve pain.
Did you know that there have been several reports of tight low-rise or skinny jeans leading to wearers developing temporary cases of meralgia paresthetica (3)?
How to relieve meralgia paresthetica pain for a good night’s sleep
There are several ways a person can relieve thigh pain. Some solutions are practical, while others may need medical intervention. In either case, pain relief is essential for getting a good night’s sleep. And this sleep, in turn, can further help relieve the issue. Let’s check each out:
Practical pain relief
It’s important to implement both daytime and night-time strategies to alleviate pain and ensure a good night’s rest.
Massaging the painful area with a massage ball or rolling pin, or taping the area with kinesiology tape can help to relieve some of the pain (4). Other options include:
- Eating a well-balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Exercising for about 30 minutes a day, 3-5 times a week—swimming and walking are especially beneficial for sufferers of meralgia paresthetica.
- Stretching each morning—lunges are excellent for relieving nerve pressure in the thigh area.
Oftentimes, people experience increased femoral nerve pain at night.
This is due to a combination of factors, including fewer distractions than during the day—which increases pain awareness—and natural changes in the hormone cycle that occur at night.
The physical act of sleeping can also impact pain levels, as pressure is placed on different points when compared to sitting or standing. In order to get a good night’s sleep with meralgia paresthetica, it is necessary to focus on both sleep preparation and the environment in which sleep takes place.
Before going to bed, suffers can:
- Implement a strict sleep schedule that enables them to set their biological clock and prepare their brain for sleep.
- Engage in a relaxing pre-sleep routine that includes stretching and deep breathing.
- Avoid screentime.
- Write out the next day’s To Do List to avoid rumination and extra stress.
- Ensure the room is dark, cool, and quiet.
The bed and a person’s meralgia paresthetica sleeping position are also important. So, sufferers should pay attention to the following:
- That blankets and other bedding are not too heavy or hot.
- That they sleep on the side opposite to where they are experiencing the pain, with a pillow between their legs to relieve strain.
Over-the-counter pain medication containing something like ibuprofen or aspirin can be useful in alleviating the pain of meralgia paresthetica. Taking such medication a while before bedtime can also aid sleep for those who suffer from femoral nerve pain at night.
If the aforementioned practical solutions and over-the-counter medication are not sufficient for pain relief, there are various other modern medical options that people can discuss with their doctors:
What is a good investment for pain relief when attempting to sleep with meralgia paresthetica?
Since suffers of meralgia paresthetica need to sleep on their side to relieve pressure on the affected thigh, investing in a mattress that is specifically designed for side-sleepers is recommended. That’s because such mattresses can ensure that the sleeper does not develop further pain or other complications from sleeping on their side and which might otherwise negatively impact healing and sleep.
There are many ways to relieve pain and sleep well with meralgia paresthetica. Some options include regular exercise and stretching, establishing a set bedtime routine, and massaging the painful area. For more severe cases, however, it may be necessary to consult a doctor to see what can be done to promote successful pain management and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
What have you found practically works for you when attempting to sleep with meralgia paresthetica? Leave your recommendations in a comment below!
For more information on sleeping successfully despite suffering from different kinds of pain, check out these articles:
- Bertozzi, B. Tosti, V. & Fontana, L. (2017) Beyond Calories: An Integrated Approach to Promote Health, Longevity, and Well-Being Retrieved from https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/446346
- Cleveland Clinic (2021) Femoral Nerve Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21786-femoral-nerve
- Melissa Dahl (2009) Skinny Jeans Give Thigh Nerve a Painful Pinch Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/skinny-jeans-give-thigh-nerve-painful-pinch-flna1c9451198
- Moyer Total Wellness (2020) At Home Massage Tools: The Rolling Pin for Self-Massage Retrieved from https://moyerwellness.com/rolling-pin-for-self-massage/
- Langford, B. & Mauck, W. D. (2020) Peripheral Nerve Simulation: A New Treatment for Meralgia Paresthetica Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/painmedicine/article/22/1/213/5961454?login=true
- Kilic, S. et al. (2020) Conservative Treatment Versus Ultrasound-Guided Injection in the Management of Meralgia Paresthetica: A Randomized Controlled Trial Retrieved from https://www.painphysicianjournal.com/current/pdf?article=NzA1NQ%3D%3D&journal=127
- Adil, S. et al. (2019) Spinal Cord Stimulation for Restless Leg Syndrome: Case Series and Mechanistic Hypothesis Retrieved from https://www.karger.com/Article/Abstract/494737
- Yang, H. J. et al. (2019) Meralgia Paresthetica Following Hemorrhoidectomy in the Jack-Knife Position – A Case Report Retrieved from https://www.anesth-pain-med.org/journal/view.php?number=61
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