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Groin Numbness Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

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The most common causes of groin numbness are due to compression of the nerves, narrow spinal cord, infection affecting the nerves and spinal cord, or trauma from an injury. Nerve pain in the groin and inner thigh can be caused from thigh nerve issue (meralgia paresthetica). Pain or tingling in the lower back with groin numbness can also be caused by a herniated disk in the lower back. Read below for more causes and treatment options for numbness in the groin.

7 most common causes

Sciatica
Lower Leg Numbness
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Bulging disc
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Cauda equina syndrome
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Groin nerve irritation
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Spinal epidural abscess
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Thigh nerve issue (meralgia paresthetica)

Groin numbness quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your numbness.

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Numbness and tingling in groin symptoms

You're sitting at your desk in the middle of the workday and you just can't shake that nagging feeling, much less focus on your work. The area between your thighs is feeling numb, and you aren't quite sure what to make of the problem. There may also be some shooting pains that come and go. At times, shifting your posture or going for a walk may help, but that weird feeling may keep coming back.

Groin numbness can be frustrating and worrisome, especially if the underlying cause is unclear. For some people, it lasts a brief time, perhaps after an injury. However, others may find the problem to be chronic and bothersome.

Common characteristics of groin numbness are

Groin numbness can likely be described by:

  • Tingling
  • Pain
  • Pins and needles

Common accompanying symptoms are

Groin numbness may sometimes occur along with:

What causes groin numbness and tingling?

Nerves transmit sensations, like temperature and pain, for example, from organs and skin back to the brain. Many problems with sensation in the body are related to nerve injury. The nerves involved in groin sensation must first pass through the bones of the spine and may be compressed, leading to pain or numbness. The area is also vulnerable to injury, such as during heavy lifting and sports, or may be impacted by poor posture. People who are overweight or in poor physical shape are more vulnerable to problems that may cause groin numbness symptoms.

Nerve-related groin numbness causes

Issues with the nerves in the body can result in groin numbness.

  • Compression: A herniated disk, tumor, or other mass can press on nerve branches and lead to numbness or tingling.
  • Narrow spinal cord: As we age, the space containing the spinal cord can narrow, leading to pain, numbness, or other changes in sensation.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: In certain conditions like multiple sclerosis, the body attacks its own nerves.
  • Injury: Trauma to the affected area can damage nerves, leading to altered sensations such as numbness.
  • Infection: Bacteria can infect the nerves or spinal cord, usually after entering the body and traveling in the bloodstream.

Behavioral groin numbness causes

The following behaviors or characteristics can result in groin numbness.

  • Poor posture: This is an especially important problem if you spend much of your day sitting in an office chair or confined to another tight space.
  • Excess weight: Being overweight or obese places extra stress on the spinal column and increases the risk for injury.

Other groin numbness causes

Other causes that can result in groin numbness include the following.

  • Anxiety: Excessive nervousness can cause numbness and tingling in certain parts of the body, including the groin.
  • Medical procedures: Certain surgeries or procedures involving the groin may lead to injury and numbness.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: The body depends on certain elements in the blood, such as potassium or calcium, to be maintained in normal amounts. Abnormal amounts can lead to a variety of symptoms, including numbness.
  • Vitamin deficiency: Certain vitamins ensure that the body's nerves work appropriately, and when vitamin levels are off, sensation can be affected.

5 groin numbness conditions

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Cauda equina syndrome

Although leg pain is common and usually goes away without surgery, cauda equina syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the bundle of nerve roots (cauda equina) at the lower (lumbar) end of the spinal cord, is a surgical emergency.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, back pain that shoots down the leg, leg weakness, thigh numbness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Groin numbness quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your numbness.

Take groin numbness quiz

Vertebral osteomyelitis

Vertebral osteomyelitis, or spinal osteomyelitis, is an infection in the bones of the spine. It usually affects the lumbar, or lower, back, and may be either acute or chronic.

The infection is caused by bacteria, most commonly Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and by some types of fungi. These agents can travel through the bloodstream from an infected wound elsewhere in the body and reach the bones of the spine.

Most susceptible are those with weakened immune systems; poor circulation; recent injury; or undergoing hemodialysis. Osteomyelitis of the spine is the most common form of osteomyelitis in adults, though children can also be affected.

Symptoms include swelling, redness, and pain at the site of the infection, along with fever, chills, and fatigue.

A medical provider should be seen for these symptoms, as vertebral osteomyelitis can progress to abscess and cause further complications if not treated.

Diagnosis is made through blood tests, imaging of the spine, and sometimes biopsy.

Treatment involves several weeks of intravenous antibiotic or antifungal medication, which can be given as an outpatient.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: upper back pain, spontaneous neck or back pain, fever, foot numbness, upper leg numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency roo

Thigh nerve issue (meralgia paresthetica)

Meralgia paresthetica is a nerve condition that causes an area of skin over the upper outer thigh to feel numb, tingly, or painful. This is caused by compression of a nerve known as the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh as it passes underneath a tough fibrous ligament known as the inguinal ligament.

You should visit your primary care physician to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options. Generally, this condition is treated with rest, physical therapy, pain medication, and occasionally corticosteroid injections.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in the outside of the hip, pain in one thigh, thigh numbness, tingling upper leg, hip numbness

Symptoms that never occur with thigh nerve issue (meralgia paresthetica): new headache, swollen hip, swollen hips, swelling of one hip, leg swelling, weakness of both legs, leg weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Spinal epidural abscess

A spinal epidural abscess is an infection of the epidural space (the space between the vertebrae and spinal cord) that causes a pocket of pus to form. Common symptoms include fever and back pain that may radiate to the lower limbs. You may also experience other lower limb issues such as weakness, numbness, pain, or difficulty walking.

Patients with a spinal epidural abscess should go to the ER, where a doctor will perform blood tests to look for inflammation and signs of infection. Imaging with MRIs is a common first step, followed by a blood test and biopsy. Antibiotics or surgery are common treatment options.

Mechanical low back pain with sciatica

Sciatica is a general term describing any shooting leg pain that begins at the spine and travels down the outside of the leg. It is also called pinched nerve, lumbar radiculopathy, sciatic neuralgia, sciatic neuritis, or sciatic neuropathy.

By far the most common cause is a herniated or "slipped" disc in the lower spine. This means some of the cushioning material inside the disc has been forced outward and is pressing on a nerve root. Spasms of the piriformis muscle around the sciatic nerve, as well as the narrowing of the spinal canal called spinal stenosis, can also cause sciatica.

Symptoms include shooting leg pain that begins suddenly or develops gradually. There may be weakness, numbness, and a pins-and-needles sensation. In severe cases, there may be difficulty moving the foot or bending the knee.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple leg-raise tests.

Treatment involves physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants. In some cases, corticosteroid spinal injections and surgery may be tried. Massage and acupuncture are also sometimes helpful.

Herniated (slipped) disk in the lower back

A herniated, ruptured, or "slipped" disc means that a vertebral disc – one of the soft pads of tissue that sit between each of the vertebral bones – has becomes squeezed out of shape. Its cushioning material has been forced against, and possibly through, the ring of fibrous tissue that normally contains it. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

The normal aging process causes the discs lose moisture and become thinner, making them more vulnerable to "slipping."

Most susceptible are men from ages 30 to 50. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and improper lifting are also risk factors.

Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, and MRI scan.

Treatment begins with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes epidural steroid injections into the back to ease pain and inflammation.

Surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc – the part that was squeezed out of place – can also be helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Groin nerve irritation

There are several nerves supplying the groin, inner thigh and genital region. Entrapment or irritation of one of these nerves can result in pain or numbness in this area. This is often caused by surgery in this area but can happen without a specific cause as well.

You should discuss your symptoms with your primary care physician. Sometimes a referral to a specialist is needed. Treatment often includes an injection with a local anesthetic.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: thigh numbness, groin numbness, testicle numbness, sharp testicle or scrotum pain, sharp groin pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Cauda equina syndrome (rapid-onset)

Although leg pain is common and usually goes away without surgery, cauda equina syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the bundle of nerve roots (cauda equina) at the lower (lumbar) end of the spinal cord, is a surgical emergency.

Call 911 immediately for an ambulance.

Groin numbness quiz

Take a quiz to find out what's causing your numbness.

Take groin numbness quiz

At-home treatments and when to see a doctor for groin numbness

The first step to numbness may be to adjust your everyday activities, especially your posture at the office. You can also try some at-home remedies to address the problem, but if your symptoms persist or worsen, then it's best to seek professional treatment where a doctor can evaluate and treat you.

At-home treatment

The following treatments can be tried at home and may help relieve your groin numbness.

  • Rest: Takes some time off to rest, especially if groin numbness begins after an injury. The body may need some time to heal itself.
  • Pain medication: Over-the-counter options like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) are excellent for short-term symptom relief.
  • Topical creams: Capsaicin-containing cream can help relieve the discomfort caused by numbness.
  • Ice: Applied to the groin, icepacks are an easy and effective way to relieve discomfort.
  • Heat: Some people may find heating pads set to a comfortable temperature are more helpful than ice, while others like to alternate heat and ice.
  • Stretching: Gentle stretching of the back and groin is easy to do at home and may have a very positive impact.

When to see a doctor

The following treatments may be recommended during a consult with your physician.

  • Physical therapy: A professional can teach more advanced techniques and target therapy to the specific area of discomfort.
  • Imaging: A doctor may order X-rays, a CT scan or MRI to evaluate the cause of your pain.
  • Nerve conduction studies: This test measures how well your nerves are able to transmit signals from your skin and other organs back to the spinal cord and the brain.
  • Steroid or anesthetic injections: If your pain stems from a problem with the spinal cord or surrounding nerves, local injections can address the underlying cause of your groin numbness symptoms.
  • Antibiotics: While not commonly used for groin numbness, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics if a bacterial infection is suspected.
  • Surgery: Surgical procedures can address problems with the spinal column, such as nerve compression and disk herniation.

When it is an emergency

See a doctor without delay if you have:

  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Back pain: With unexplained fever, recent infection or if you've had injections for any reason
  • Weakness or numbness: Especially in the genital or rectal area
  • A history of cancer
  • Taking steroids like prednisone or other immunosuppressive drugs

Prevention

The key to preventing groin numbness in the first place may be as simple as being mindful of your posture. Keep the following in mind as much as you can.

  • Ensure your feet are flat on the ground
  • Keep your knees bent comfortably: They should be at about 90 degrees and at the level of your hips
  • Support your lower back: Such as with a pillow or other soft object
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed: Not curled up or bent at an angle

Questions your doctor may ask about groin numbness

  • Does coughing cause other symptoms to worsen or appear?
  • Have you ever had any surgeries?
  • Do your symptoms worsen when standing or walking?
  • Any fever today or during the last week?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

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Dr. Rothschild has been a faculty member at Brigham and Women’s Hospital where he is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He currently practices as a hospitalist at Newton Wellesley Hospital. In 1978, Dr. Rothschild received his MD at the Medical College of Wisconsin and trained in internal medicine followed by a fellowship in critical care medicine. He also received an MP...
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References

  1. Shelat AM. Numbness and tingling. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated December 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  2. Martin R, Martin HD, Kivlan BR. Nerve entrapment in the hip regoin: Current concepts review. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2017;12(7):1163-1173. NCBI Link
  3. Meralgia paresthetica information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated June 20, 2018. NINDS Link
  4. Lumbar spinal stenosis. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link
  5. Multiple sclerosis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 23, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  6. Spinal infections. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. AANS Link