Definition: what is cruralgia?
Cruralgia, or right-sided lumbar pain, is a sharp pain caused by the compression of one of the two roots of the femoral nerve. Its symptoms, causes and treatment are very close to those of sciatica, which is because the two originate from an inflammation of a nerve found in the lumbar (lower back). Only the path of pain differs.
Less common than sciatica, cruralgia is however more painful. It mostly affects people over the age of 50.
Symptoms of cruralgia
Cruralgia is an intense pain from the beginning of the thigh and along the femoral nerve. It starts from the lumbar roots (L4, L3 or L2), around the spinal cord, and travels along the thigh. It controls the contraction of muscles and the sensitivity of the anterior surface of the leg and finishes in the foot.
In some cases, body parts are partially or completely paralyzed such as the knee, the heel or the tiptoe. This is known as paralytic cruralgia. The pressure exerted on the nerve can also cause irreversible damage.
Causes of cruralgia
Cruralgia often comes from a non-infectious origin. It may be due to narrowing of the femoral nerve by a herniated disk, the alteration of the vertebral disk following general wear and tear or arthritis, deterioration of the spine such as scoliosis or narrowing of the lumbar canal.
In the most serious cases, the cause of cruralgia can be spondylodiscitis. This is a serious infection of the vertebral disks and a medical emergency that must be immediately treated. The presence of a tumour in a lumbar vertebra can also compromise the femoral nerve.
Treatment: how to care for cruralgia
As in the case of sciatica, the first thing to do is to arrange a period of absolute rest for two days. This is because resting in bed for too long can weaken the back muscles supporting the spine and therefore drag out the healing process.
Medicinal treatment can be prescribed by a doctor as soon as symptoms appear in order to limit pain. It mainly relies on taking paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If the pain is too intense, painkillers made primarily from morphine can also be proposed.
If after two or three months treatment isn’t having much effect, a doctor can ask for supplementary tests such as an MRI or radiogram of the spine. Surgery can be suggested afterwards, depending on the cause of cruralgia. It can be an enlargement of the lumbar canal, securing the spine or a removal of the herniated disc. These operations can be carried out in minimally invasive surgery, which reduces post-operative complications.