Numb Thigh

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What is numb thigh?

Numb thigh is caused when sensation in the thigh is diminished from nerve damage or dysfunction. It can result from an injury to the thigh or exposure to cold temperatures. Another possible cause of numb thigh is meralgia paresthetica, which is a disorder caused by compression of the lateral femoral cutaneous nerve, one of the main nerves within the thigh. Numbness in the thigh or legs can also be caused by a number of chronic conditions that affect the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis and lupus.

Sciatica is numbness, pain or weakness in the leg that is caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve, often as a result of spinal stenosis or disc disease. Alternatively, numb thigh may be caused by peripheral neuropathy, a disorder in which the nerves that relay signals between the body and the brain and spinal cord do not function properly. Peripheral neuropathy can be due to a number of specific diseases and disorders, including diabetes and alcoholism. In some cases, peripheral neuropathy has no known cause. In rare cases, if the numb thigh is accompanied by numbness or weakness of the arms or legs on one side of the body, it can be a sign of stroke.

The duration and course of numb thigh vary widely, depending on the cause. Symptoms caused by injury often have a sudden onset. In other cases, numb thigh resulting from underlying neuropathy develops slowly and persists or worsens over time.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911)if a sudden feeling of numbness in the thigh is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body; a change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life, as these can be signs of stroke.

If your numb thigh is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with numb thigh?

Numb thigh may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the thigh also involve other body systems.

Leg symptoms that may occur along with numb thigh

Numb thigh may accompany other symptoms affecting the thigh including:

  • Blistering
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Paralysis
  • Redness, warmth or swelling
  • Tingling
  • Weakness (loss of strength)

Meralgia paresthetica symptoms that may occur along with numb thigh

Numb thigh may accompany other symptoms caused by meralgia paresthetica that affect the outer thigh. Symptoms of meralgia paresthetica include:

  • Aching or pain in the groin or buttocks
  • Outer thigh pain
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Symptoms in only one thigh
  • Tingling or numbness in the outer thigh

Other symptoms that may occur along with numb thigh

Numb thigh may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

  • Changes in sensation
  • Difficulty walking
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Foot problems, such as ulcers and bone and joint pain
  • Impaired coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve pain
  • Numbness or tingling in other parts of the body
  • Pain when walking

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Sudden numb thigh accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body can be a sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have numb thigh along with other serious symptoms including:

What causes numb thigh?

Numb thigh can be the result of peripheral nerve or skin damage to the thigh and surrounding tissues. Disorders affecting the nerves, such as peripheral neuropathy and stroke, may also cause numb thigh. Also, meralgia paresthetica, a disorder in which nerve compression affects feeling in the outer thigh, is another possible cause of numb thigh.

Common causes of numb thigh

Numb thigh may be caused by several common conditions including:

  • Exposure to cold

  • Exposure to toxins or poisons

  • Injury

  • Obesity

  • Occupational activities that may harm the outer thigh (accidental trauma, tight work spaces, confined operating space)

  • Peripheral neuropathy (disorder that causes dysfunction of nerves that lie outside your brain and spinal cord)

  • Pressure on nerve

  • Tight clothing

Diseases or disorders causing numb thigh

A number of diseases can cause numb thigh including:

  • Alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption)

  • Cancer

  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes)

  • Guillain-Barre syndrome (autoimmune nerve disorder)

  • Meralgia paresthetica (pain in outer thigh due to nerve compression)

  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)

  • Shingles (reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains in the body in an inactive state following chickenpox)

  • Spinal stenosis, disc disease, or other conditions of the spine

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

  • Vitamin deficiencies

Serious or life-threatening causes of numb thigh

In some cases, numb thigh may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Stroke

  • Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of numb thigh

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your numb thigh including:

  • How long have you felt numbness in your thigh?
  • What type of work do you do?
  • Where do you feel the numbness in your thigh?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of numb thigh?

Because numb thigh can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Adverse effects of treatment for numb thigh
  • Brain damage (if your numb thigh is due to stroke)
  • Paralysis
  • Permanent disability
  • Permanent nerve damage
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 9
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm.
  2. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm.
  3. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.