Meralgia paresthetica, also called Bernhardt-Roth syndrome, occurs when there is pressure on the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve that supplies sensation to the upper thigh. As a result, the condition can lead to tingling, numbness, burning, and pain in the outer part of the thigh. Often, this pressure is the result of tight clothing, weight gain, pregnancy, or an underlying condition. Many exercises can help by working muscles near the problematic nerve.
Exercises that are most effective for treating meralgia paresthetica strengthen the abdominal muscles or involve flexion of the thigh at the pelvis. Plank is one of the easiest exercises that work the abdominal muscles. In comparison to other core exercises, they place less stress on the lower back. Though traditional planks involve balancing on the forearms and toes, they can be modified to suit any body type and fitness level.
Side plank is one variation that requires significant core strength to prevent the hips from touching the floor. In this exercise, the person holds their body sideways, supporting themselves with their elbow and the side of their foot. Side planks primarily work the transverse abdominis, rectus abdominis, various gluteus muscles, and the adductor muscles of the hip. Bending the knees can lower the overall effort necessary for the plank and alleviate some of the force on the lateral cutaneous nerve, reducing meralgia paresthetica pain.
Hip flexion is one of the best motions for improving meralgia paresthetica pain. Lunges strengthen the muscles necessary to perform these motions, such as the gluteus medius and minimus and the rectus femoris. To perform a lunge, simply maintain a straight back while taking a large step forward. The back foot’s heel should lift off of the ground. Lower the entire body until both knees bend at 90-degree angles. Return to a standing position and repeat. Even if only one leg has pain, repeat the exercise equally on both sides.
The gluteal muscles provide a significant amount of support to the spine and pelvis. Glute bridges strengthen both the gluteal and core muscles while also requiring hip flexion. To perform a glute bridge, lay supine on the floor while keeping the knees bent and the feet flat. Squeeze the glutes and press into the heels to lift the pelvis and hips upward.
One of the main causes of meralgia paresthetica is weight gain. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce or eliminate symptoms of meralgia paresthetica. While following a proper diet is the most effective way to lose weight, aerobic exercises can shed additional calories and improve overall health. Exercises such as jogging, walking, and cycling are all effective aerobic exercises. However, exercising or standing too long can aggravate meralgia paresthetica symptoms, so do so carefully.
Stretching and improving the quadricep muscles like the rectus femoris and the condyles can reduce some of the pain from meralgia paresthetica. A simple quadriceps stretch involves bending one leg backward at the knee and bringing the foot upward to the body. Use a wall or railing for balance.
Many physical therapists recommend donkey kicks for meralgia paresthetica. To perform a donkey kick, start on all fours with wrists under shoulders and knees under hips. Lift one leg, keeping it bent at the knee as you "kick" with control, pointing the toe or bottom of the foot toward the ceiling. Donkey kicks target the core and gluteal muscles and require hip flexion.
Some experts state that stretching the inguinal ligament is a simple way to improve meralgia paresthetica pain. This ligament is in the inner groin and anchors the external oblique muscles to the pelvis. For a supine active frog stretch, lie on your back with both feet flat on the ground. Slowly lower each knee toward the ground, spreading the legs and stretching the inguinal ligament.
Though this exercise requires a foam exercise roller, it is easy to perform, which makes it ideal for people with extreme meralgia paresthetica pain. Lay prone with a foam roller providing support under the quadricep muscles of one leg. Support the body with the forearms and gently push the torso and lower body back and forth, moving the leg over the roller and letting the weight of the body provide pressure. This stretches the quadriceps, and the massaging itself can reduce pain.
People familiar with yoga will recognize this exercise. The cat-cow position involves alternating between two positions. Starting on all fours, arch the back and let the belly sag. Then, perform the inverse, arching the back toward the ceiling and let the head hang. These poses stretch the spine stabilizers while strengthening the abdominal muscles. They also provide minor stretching of the thigh muscles.
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