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A nerve is a bundle of fibers responsible for transmitting messages throughout the body to elicit sensations and movement. This communication system consists of the central nervous system — which consists of the brain and spinal cord — and the peripheral nervous system, the nerves that run through the rest of the body. The ilioinguinal nerve is a part of the peripheral nervous system in charge of supplying chemical and electrical signals to the lower trunk and the upper thigh.
Originating from the first lumbar or low back spinal nerve, the ilioinguinal nerve drapes above the iliac crest, the upper protuberance of the hip bone. Its main job is to provide sensation to the inner thigh and groin area, including the reproductive organs. When this nerve is irritated, entrapped or damaged, pain symptoms can be felt in any of these areas. Injuries, surgical procedures or infections can cause a lack or a distortion in sensation or pain ranging from moderate to severe in nature.
Nerve pain, as can be experienced due to an ilioinguinal nerve problem, is often first treated conservatively with the use of medications specifically tailored to neuropathic pain, a condition affecting the nervous system. These can include over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen to reduce muscle spasms that may be crushing the nerve, to local topic anesthetic creams to reduce pain. Other medications, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants, may also be an effective tool in reducing or preventing nerve pain.
Other conservative treatment options for ilioinguinal nerve pain consists of a comprehensive stretching and exercise program to reduce muscular tension causing pressure on the nerve. Modalities such as TENS or transcutaneous electrical stimulation may also reduce pain. TENS is a small machine with electrodes placed on the skin that delivers a low voltage current to the affected area to provide an anesthetic sensation.
The injection of medications in a procedure called a nerve block is a minimally invasive technique used when more conservative treatments are ineffective or when the pain from an inguinal nerve problem is severe and limiting normal daily activities. A nerve block is when a combination of medications, usually a steroid to decrease inflammation or swelling of the nerve and its surrounding areas, and a local anesthetic, is injected into the area. This can provide a longer-lasting relief of pain. With severe symptoms, an opioid, a strong pain-relieving medication, can be injected as well.
In extreme cases of ilioinguinal nerve pain, a spinal cord stimulator or spinal pump may be used. A spinal cord stimulator is a device surgically inserted to deliver electrical impulses to control pain issues that become chronic or long-lasting in nature. A spinal pump is a machine surgically inserted that can deliver pain medications as necessary.