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What can I do about Femoral Nerve Damage?

Doctor examining a patient for femoral nerve damage.
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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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Femoral nerve damage, also referred to as femoral nerve dysfunction or neuropathy, can occur from an injury or prolonged compression. Typically, femoral nerve damage and dysfunction is associated with the leg and is characterized by a disruption of sensation in the front of the thigh and lower leg. This nerve is also involved in muscle control needed to straighten the leg. However, since the femoral nerve runs from the torso through the thigh with several branches extending throughout these locations, significant trauma to almost any part of the body can result in systemic femoral nerve damage.

Direct injury aside, femoral nerve damage can be caused by a number of other factors. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, can damage this nerve due to impaired metabolic functioning. In fact, expansive neuropathy in the legs and feet of diabetics is quite common. Other mediating factors include fracturing the pelvis, internal bleeding, or oxygen deprivation to the nerve due to becoming encased in a tumor or being subjected to pressure by the presence of a tumor.

Symptoms of femoral nerve damage range from a feeling of general weakness in the leg to prickly sensations. It may sometimes be difficult to walk or stand for long periods of time. Often, patients describe feeling as though the knee simply collapses, especially when attempting to use stairs. Odd feelings experienced in the leg may include a tingling or burning sensation. However, while these sensations may produce some discomfort, localized pain is not a typical symptom.

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Diagnosis of femoral nerve damage starts with a complete physical examination, including observing knee jerk response and an assessment of the ability to straighten and bend the leg. If nerve damage is suspected, then nerve conduction tests and various neurological examinations will likely follow. It is also possible that imaging tests may be conducted to rule out obstruction of the nerve by a tumor or other growth. In addition, muscle strength may be tested by using a procedure known as electromyography.

A treatment plan is designed according to the underlying cause of the nerve damage. For instance, in the case of diabetes-related degenerative nerve damage, increased measures to control glucose resistance and utilization may be needed. On the other hand, if tumors are causing compression on the femoral nerve, then surgery may be indicated. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be given to increase mobility. However, due to the risks associated with corticosteroids, many physicians may elect to prescribe physical therapy and/or orthopedic corrective devices instead.

Experiencing any of the symptoms of femoral nerve damage outlined above warrants a consultation with a health care practitioner right away. In most cases, the patient can expect a full recovery, if treated in a timely manner. Ignoring symptoms, however, may possibly result in a permanent injury and disability.

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Discuss this Article

anon945267
Post 28

I had hip replacement on my left leg in February 2014 and was assured everything was OK after the surgery. The following day, I noticed that the leg was unusually heavy but I attributed it to the surgery. My surgeon told me that everything would be okay and that I could put my weight on the leg. I was discharged four days later.

When I got home, I felt a sharp and terrible pain run through my left thigh and I took Tylenol 3 for the pain. When I started PT, I discovered that I couldn't lift my left leg. After some electrical charging and the muscles wouldn't budge, my PT concluded that I may have nerve damage and arranged for an appointment for me to see a doctor. The doc confirmed this and sent me for an ultrasound. I was scheduled to see my surgeon the following Tuesday. Unfortunately, I did not get a booking for the ultrasound before I saw my surgeon. He cancelled the ultrasound and said the retractors used during surgery might have put the nerve to sleep. He said it would take time and asked me to see him in three months.

I am really scared as I am a young woman of 44 and still active. I didn't want to be disabled and did this surgery to correct an impending disability. Unfortunately, I am not happy with the outcome. Can anyone explain any options to me? Much appreciated.

Marsunbkk
Post 27

My daughter had knee surgery, woke up and could no longer lift her lower leg. Now diagnosed with femoral nerve disorder. Doctors refuse/can't or won't diagnose the cause. Anyone who has knowledge about such an occurrence and what treatment could help to restore movement?

anon355381
Post 26

I had hip replacement surgery in September 2013 under a general anesthetic. A physical therapist got me out of bed a couple hours after surgery and walked me to the door of my room and back. That evening, my left leg swelled up in a matter of moments and I lost the ability to move my leg, foot and toes. I called a nurse who said I needed to move around more in bed and that swelling was normal after surgery. She refused my request to get a doctor, saying if things didn't improve within an hour, she would get the doctor on call.

After a half hour, I called the nurse again and demanded that she get a doctor. When he arrived, he stated that he had never seen such swelling after hip surgery. I asked him if it could be caused by a blood clot. He said "no," then asked if I was really concerned that it might be a clot. I reminded him that he was the doctor. He then told me my surgeon would stop by in the morning and would know more about the problem. This doctor returned three hours later with three other medical professionals, none of whom had any idea what the problem was. He lifted my leg and asked me to hold it in the air, but it was limp.

The following morning the surgeon came in and spent 20 minutes trying to get me to move my leg, to no avail. He said he thought it could be femoral nerve damage, possibly caused by pressure from the retractors used during surgery. He said he didn't think he had cut the nerve because the nerve monitors read normally during the procedure. He added that this had only happened to him seven or eight times in 4,000 hip surgeries. Later that same morning, I received an MRI to determine whether or not the problem was caused by a blood clot, despite the fact the doctor on call the previous evening decided that there was no clot.

The surgeon returned an hour after the MRI was conducted to tell me no clotting was involved. He said "if" the femoral nerve was damaged, recovery would take six to nine months. I was released from the hospital the following day with a full-length leg brace and a cane. The surgeon said if there was no progress within three months, he would perform surgery to look at the nerve. He proscribed physical therapy, another MRI and an EMG. Two weeks later, I sought a second opinion from another surgeon who performs the same anterior surgical approach that I had just undergone. He said that that femoral damage using that approach was rare and that he had never seen it himself. He told me at my age (65) corrective surgery would not be productive because nerve splices don't work in older people.

While I have recovered movement in my foot and toes, I have no control over my quad muscles and must wear the brace to avoid collapsing. In addition, every evening I get burning and tingling pain in the foot and it feels as though several bands of steel are tightening around the instep. The inside of my thigh and calf are numb as well as my entire left knee. Nearly two months after the operation, I still have residual swelling in the left leg. I take pain medicine to relieve the burning sensation in my foot, but it's not very effective. The pain often keeps me awake at night.

Physical therapy, including the use of electronic stimulation, has not been productive. The therapists explained that their goal is not to help the nerve heal, but to get back some strength to the quads so I can walk without the brace. I've returned to work after being off for seven weeks, but have difficulty working at my desk because of the leg pain. But perhaps the worst pain comes from the depression which set in when I realized I was partially paralyzed.

anon320625
Post 25

I was in a motorcycle accident last year in the first month of the year. I got wounds on my legs and arms, my left leg was swollen and I had no strength to walk. I was in bed for a week.

Now, it's a year later and my left leg looks smaller than my right leg. Is this problem called femoral nerve dysfunction? Is there any remedy to bring back the muscles of my left leg?

anon299548
Post 24

I am a 38 year old female in relatively good health. I have not been diagnosed, but suspect I may have some femoral nerve damage after partial lateral menisectomy and synovenectomy seven weeks ago.

I am improving my strength in non weight bearing positions of my quads, but struggle with weight bearing positions controlling the quads in order to lock out the knee fully. Due to the demands of my job, I am still unable to return to work at this time. No numbness or burning sensations but occasional shooting pains under knee cap.

When I'm walking, I'm unable to lock knee out fully and it frequently buckles if I try to correct it seems to over correct, pulling it back too far into extension (I see stars when this happens!) All ligaments are intact and my doc appears to be quite baffled with me. I have constant spasms in my knee, especially in weight bearing, when my quad fights to kick in, which is not the most comfortable thing in the world. Has anyone else experienced these symptoms?

rvrcowboy
Post 23

In May 2012, I was standing at my bathroom sink, shaving. Suddenly, my whole lower body went weak (limp) and I sank to my knees on the floor. After several minutes I managed to struggle to my feet, only by pulling myself up with my arms on the counter, and soon found myself in the emergency room of the local hospital.

After five MRI's and numerous doctors appointments, I was sent to the Rockwood Clinic, in Spokane, WA, where I was diagnosed as having had a hemorrhage in my left groin muscle which crushed my femoral nerve in that leg. This was nearly two months after the incident. In the meantime, I had fallen nearly 20 times, tearing my meniscus in my left leg, requiring knee surgery. Now I am wearing a drop-lock-brace, much like polio patients used to wear, on my left leg. I suffer constant pain, especially at night, and take pain killers daily.

I have lost a lot of muscle in my left leg and do physical therapy twice a week to help stop further loss. My prognosis is that the nerve will "probably" regenerate, in time, but no guarantees. If it does regenerate, it will likely take up to two years.

I am 64 years old, retired and now working at my church as a maintenance person and janitor. I have not missed any work despite suffering the constant pain. To this point, nearly five months later, I have seen very little, if any improvement in the use of my left leg. I am trying to keep a positive outlook but it is very difficult and I am tired all the time from dragging my leg around and from the drugs I need to stand the constant pain. I would welcome any suggestions or advice.

anon289873
Post 22

I had a very large hematoma three months ago. During this episode, I could not move my leg at all. I had emergency surgery to repair three tears in my femoral artery and remove the hematoma, and a 1.5 liter blood clot was removed from my thigh. However, my leg remained extremely swollen for three weeks (normal circumference = 22"; swollen circumference = 36"). The first two weeks of this three week period, I was bedfast, and underwent physical therapy to use a walker. I am currently walking with a cane, but I have an indentation on the quadricep that is 1" wide and roughly 4" long and runs perpendicular to my leg. I have a constant burning sensation in this indentation. Palpating the indentation causes a very sharp, very intense stabbing pain with severe burning pain for several hours after palpation. The pain associated with this indentation follows the quadricep to the knee, and makes it painful to bend my knee.

Finally, my questions: Is this pain related to permanent damage? What are my pain management options?

How it happened: The original surgery was a cardiac ablation for atrial fibrillation. In post-op, the post operative nurses removed the catheter sheath from my right femoral vein, and ripped three holes in my femoral artery. The hematoma formed over the next 17 hours, until I was eventually in hypovolemic shock. During this time, the hematoma enlarged, and my thigh circumference maxed out at 36".

anon270323
Post 21

I have been dealing with femoral nerve damage since 2005. The nerve was damaged during a hysterectomy. In the beginning my leg was useless. I couldn't raise my leg and it was completely numb above the knee. Over the years my leg has gotten stronger but it still isn't 100 percent.

I have been taking pain medication all this time. Without it I wouldn't be able to continue working. Nerves heal very slowly. If you have a recent injury to the nerve, you can expect it to improve. But if the damage is severe it probably won't heal completely. Good luck to all of you.

anon263706
Post 20

I was struck by a teen riding a motorcycle.She was talking to her boyfriend on a cell phone. She was an illegal alien, 15 years old and had neither insurance nor a license to drive a motor vehicle.

The police took the car away (it was had an out of state tag) and arrested the girl, whose parents bailed her out and they fled back to Mexico the next day.

The right side of my pelvis was shattered and I had to spend almost a year in bed. I had to learn to walk again and go to therapy for five years. There are 11 one inch screws and three links of chain in my pelvis, along with a piece of wire and an 11-inch screw.

I have no feeling in my right thigh from the waist to the knee. I lie down and it feels like a knife in my thigh that is being twisted. The femoral nerve must be totally damaged. I have almost no balance at all with this leg without a cane. I can only walk a short time without having to sit down.

I have been going to a gym every morning. I walk a mile and a half a day. It's slow but I do it the best I can. Then I sit on a recumbent bike and do 10 miles seven days a week. It takes me almost two and a half hours a day to do this. I have been working out for the last three years at the gym. And I know once there is damage to the femoral nerve, regardless of how it got there, you are going to have to live with it.

anon258140
Post 19

Mine seems so different. I was active through the day and when I lay down last night, I felt a stab, like a pin prick causing a palm sized part of my leg to go numb. I pulled the bed apart because I thought I'd been bitten, but I have no redness or swelling. That was last night. Now, after lunch, my numb spot is along most of my upper leg. Can this be a symptom?

anon244319
Post 18

Yes! I have the exact same thing! I had surgery in October, 2010 and I have femoral nerve palsy now. It was a simple knee scope. I have stumped many doctors, and every last test.

I don't know how this could have happened! Was it the position my leg was in? I didn't have a nerve block, so I have no clue how this happened. There are no signs of spinal damage, tumors etc. I am a healthy 42 year old woman who was very active. Now I have horrible nerve pain, an atrophied quad, and have had multiple falls. I wonder if anyone knows if there is any sort of surgery that can repair the femoral nerve! Please help! Thanks! --Mary

anon244013
Post 17

I was leaning my forearm on my left thigh while using my laptop when I suddenly felt a sharp stabbing pain in my left leg. It graduated down to my foot with a pins and needles sensation. The skin on my thigh is now hypersensitive and sleeping is painful as I can't get a position that doesn't cause pain. Could this be femoral nerve damage? It's been a week with little improvement.

anon231409
Post 16

I recently dislocated my SI joint when I jumped down about four feet. The next morning I was in pretty good pain and could not sit or walk much. I could only lay down. After about three weeks, severe pain, an ambulance ride, and hospitalization, two MRI's with negative results, I finally got with a doc and physical therapist that did a good evaluation and properly diagnosed the problem.

PT has got the joint squared away but the femoral nerve pain continues with numbness in my knee and hypersensitivity of the skin on my inner thigh and calf. While it has only been two months, I'm afraid that this will be a long road to recovery. Any suggestions for treating the nerve pain?

anon219121
Post 15

I have been suffering with this for over a year now. My doctor hardly checked my knee/thigh at all. He took an x ray and told me I have moderate osteoarthritis (I don't suffer any symptoms of this at all). He has me referred to a ortho-surgeon even though he has never examined my knee or asked many questions.

I've been to physiotherapists, massage therapists without relief, or anyone truly diagnosing me. Many thought I had runners knee. I stumbled upon speaking with a chiropractor that practices the Pettibone system.

I have had seven treatments with him and my leg, thigh and knee are feeling great. My knee always felt like it would want to give out, sharp pains up my thigh and starting to bother my hip. I will continue to go as he recommends three months, three times per week. Finally someone has been able to help me. Female, 51 years old.

anon205295
Post 14

I'm going to get my femoral nerve tumor chopped out by much better docs, and then continue running marathons and triathlons!

anon189465
Post 13

I suffered from the gradual atrophying of the quads in my left thigh, together with a constant, sharp pain in my groin. An MRI scan of my lower back showed a herniated disc at levels 3 and 4. I had this disc surgically removed six weeks ago. The surgeon said that the femoral nerve had been severely constricted and was a blue colour instead of a healthy white.

I am now able to walk but with a lot of muscle pain in the quads and have found that the best therapy is to walk, walk, walk, despite the pain. My knee still gives way on the stairs but I try 'step ups' in order to hopefully redevelop the muscles. Could be a long journey!

anon181632
Post 12

I had a left hip replacement in 2003. 18 or so months after I experience excruciating pain. After lots of tests to rule out cancer, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, a very smart doctor at the Denver Rheumatoid Arthritis Center told me to get a pelvic MRI, where they found a large cyst on my femoral nerve.

They decided to go in and scrape it and ended up damaging the femoral nerve (according to the surgeon who did the surgery). I still have numbness in my lower leg and cannot trust it to hold my weight up and down stairs.

There is no pain but, if I ride my bike, I cannot put that leg down first because it is basically numb and buckles under me. Do you think I can improve this condition with any kind of medical help? Thank you.

anon168865
Post 11

In 2008 I had a knee arthroscopy, during which a cartilage trim was carried out. Immediately after waking up from the surgery, I collapsed several times, I had severe pain in my leg and knee, my knee gives way, I cannot do a straight leg raise, and now have to wear a leg brace to walk, with the aid of crutches.

I also since the surgery have a bladder problem. All this just because I was complaining of a clicking sensation in my knee. I am now taking several kinds of pain relief medication,along with wearing local anesthetic patches and medication to help with the bladder trouble.

I have had all the tests: EMG, scans, nerve conduction studies, etc. The result is that I have femoral nerve dysfunction due to the arthroscopy, which is a permanent disability now. Has anyone else out heard of this happening just from having a simple procedure like this?--

SGC

anon163575
Post 10

My husband just had colon surgery and as a result he was left with femoral nerve damage in his right leg. Is this normal? How could this happen.?

anon157901
Post 9

I had my hip revised in December of 2010. I had EMG testing and my femoral nerve is functioning between 0 and 1. Most of the numbness is at the side of my leg and over my knee. I have to wear a brace to prevent myself from falling.

My quad has atrophied and I am not getting any better. I am getting scared that I will be permanently disabled and it is not realistic for me to walk around with the brace that I wear now. How do you spell frustrated?

anon149908
Post 8

I had an accident three years ago, and severe pain in the groin and thigh (I can stand and sit only for very short time, I have to lie most of the day), since then the doctors found different "reasons".

I had many treatments and two surgeries (labral tear), but nothing helped. Now I saw a doctor who told me, I may have an encapsulated hematoma compressing the femoral nerve. Hope this will be the reason and the surgery will help me. Mona

anon134446
Post 7

I have been dealing with pain in the leg, buttock

hip, groin and pubic bone area for two years and finally

I was told it might be from femoral hernia surgery.

Therefore the doctor is sending me for a nerve

block and an MRN. afterward he will decide on the

undoing of the hernia repair. I went to so many

doctors over the past two years and now finally I happen to see one that seems to be on track.

anon131001
Post 6

my husband was shot in the upper left thigh and wound has healed but still having lot of pain and losing sensation from knee down to ankle. His ankle swells a little too. I think he may have some kind of nerve damage. Any suggestions?

StreamFinder
Post 5

I've recently been experiencing tingling and numbness in my upper thigh, but haven't had any damage to the leg. I can still walk because it comes and goes, but it's pretty uncomfortable.

I'm not diabetic and I don't think I have a tumor, but a friend said this could be femoral nerve damage.

Any ideas?

closerfan12
Post 4

@Planch -- Sorry about your friend. I assume that she was in a car accident or something like that, to sustain that level of trauma?

With that level of damage, your friend is probably undergoing physical therapy (or should be, if she isn't already). She should ask her therapist about some stretches to help relieve pain, or if she can use hot packs to soothe the surrounding muscle.

Also, many doctors prescribe painkillers for people with traumatic nerve damage like that. As long as it doesn't interfere with her therapy I think that this is probably her best bet.

Other than that, just take it easy and follow the therapist's advice.

Good luck!

Planch
Post 3

What are some good ways to deal with the pain from femoral nerve damage?

I have a friend who is experiencing some pretty severe pain in her leg because of nerve damage due to trauma, and is looking for ways to relieve the pain while she's healing.

Any suggestions?

anon33011
Post 1

Yes, I am certain that I now have femoral neuropathy. I went for EMG and an MRI. MRI didn't reveal anything except edema in my psoas. I am certain this is due to an injury from overuse in cycling and running without proper training. Exactly where the problem is I'm not sure but I am guessing there is a problem in the Psoas muscle where the nerve runs through.

I've had these problems for over 10 years but usually if I'm careful to gradually work into exercise it is manageable. This time went over the cliff. For 4 months I've barely been able to walk, for 2 of those I couldn't at all. For a period I had almost complete loss of my quads, and they have significantly atrophied. Now, after disciplined lack of movement, it is coming back. I can now walk (limp) for short distances, and the pain is generally diminishing. However, even if I do recover as a result of my careful babying of my leg, I am not sure how it will stay away. It may come back again easily, I just don't know. Interestingly, I am also getting the beginnings of this in my other leg because I am asking so much of it when going up and down stairs.

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