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.
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:
- 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.
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.
Top Symptoms: thigh numbness, groin numbness, testicle numbness, sharp testicle or scrotum pain, sharp groin pain
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Herniated (slipped) disk in the lower back
The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
Dr. Wilkinson received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his BA from Princeton University where he was the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Princetonian. He is currently a resident in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. Outside of the hospital, Jack worked as an editor at The JoongAng Daily of South Korea and a freelance writer.
- Shelat AM. Numbness and tingling. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated December 6, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- 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
- Meralgia paresthetica information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated June 20, 2018. NINDS Link
- Lumbar spinal stenosis. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Johns Hopkins Medicine Link
- Multiple sclerosis. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated October 23, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
- Spinal infections. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. AANS Link