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What is the Obturator Nerve?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated May 17, 2024
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The obturator nerve is the largest nerve in the anterior lumbar plexus. The lumbar plexus is a nerve network or grouping of nerves of the low back area. This series of nerves serves as a pathway for electrochemical signals connecting the brain to the back, abdomen, groin and knees. These nerves are considered part of the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system connects the body to the brain and spinal cord, also known as the central nervous system.

This nerve stems from the second through the fourth lumbar, or low back, nerves and runs into the anterior or front portion of hip area through the psoas major. The psoas major muscle, responsible for flexion of the hip, starts at the last thoracic or trunk spinal or vertebral bones, attaches to all the lumbar vertebral bones, and runs to the lesser trochanter of the femur. The lesser trochanter of the femur, also known as the long thigh bone, is a raised area on the top of the bone in the inner thigh where the muscle connects to the bone. The nerve then runs through the pelvis and thigh to supply sensory input to the front of the upper leg and knee area.

Problems and nerve damage of the obturator nerve can result from an injury to the nerve or to the surrounding musculature, causing an impingement or restriction. Pelvic injuries, including fractures, are a common factor in obturator nerve pain syndromes. Symptoms include pain in the groin which can radiate into the middle of the thigh down to the knee, and weakness or instability of the leg, especially with physical activities. Since nerve healing is a slow process, symptoms of nerve problems can last up to several months.

Utilizing methods to decrease inflammation around the obturator nerve may help ease pain. Inflammation is swelling, the body’s defense against further injury. NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, often help control inflammation.

Conservative methods to treat problems with the obturator nerve include physical therapy for stretching to the area and a general exercise program, massage therapy to release muscle tightness and the use of modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation for pain management. When symptoms of obturator nerve problems are severe, the injection of steroids may be necessary. This procedure is called an obturator nerve block. This technique is an effective means to ease inflammation and manage pain in most cases of nerve impingement or entrapment.

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Discussion Comments

By anon302719 — On Nov 11, 2012

I have like a pain from my hip, inner thigh and pelvic area. It only starts to hurt whenever I walk quite far distances and then when I get home, it feels like growing pains and it's very uncomfortable in the areas I mentioned above. I'm only 17, so yeah. I was just wondering if somebody knows what's wrong?

By anon299290 — On Oct 24, 2012

I've been having pain on the side of my knee for about the last four months. I got an MRI X-ray and a cortisol shot and none of them worked at helping me relieve the pain or telling me what's wrong with me. Can anyone help?

By anon284657 — On Aug 10, 2012

Closerfan12 you do not want to know! Believe me.

By anon165066 — On Apr 03, 2011

I have nerve pain. It feels like labor pain in the intermediate stage. Or compare it to a sinus infection, where it seems like having severe toothache. Even it feels like someone hit you inside of your groin with a hammer and the pain lingers and increases with time. Tramadol and neurontin help to manage the pain.

The pain goes all the way down to the leg, the knee, and then the foot, combination of this one, and sciatica. It hurts so much, the skin, the foot is also numb, and sometimes it hurts so much, it doesn't hurt anymore. Please people take care of yourselves.

It is not worth to go out of your way physically in exchange of an injury, just because you were pushing yourself harder to be in better physical shape. In what physical shape am i now? I cannot run, a little running yes, but it hurts, so i walk now.

By pleats — On Sep 07, 2010

Are the effects of having a pinched obturator nerve in any way similar to having a pinched nerve at the C6 nerve root?

By lightning88 — On Sep 07, 2010

What happens if an obturator nerve injury cuts off the nerve innervation to the thigh?

Would it feel like you had a pinched nerve in the thigh, or would the pain be much more severe?

I have been experiencing terrible pain in my thighs for about a week now, and it's not a pulled muscle kind of pain.

So I got to looking on webMD and now I've scared myself.

Does anybody know if it's possible to injure the nerve to your obturator internus or your lateral femoral cutaneous nerve by running too much?

Am I just worrying too much?

By closerfan12 — On Sep 07, 2010

I once had a pinched hand nerve, and the pain was excruciating -- I can't even imagine what a pelvic nerve pain or a pinched genitofemoral nerve would feel like. Ooh, it makes me shivery just thinking about it!

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