Skinny Jeans Can Lead to Nerve and Muscle Damage, Doctors Say

Patient was helping a family member move while wearing her "skinny jeans."

ByABC News
June 23, 2015, 11:11 AM

— -- Doctors are warning potential fashion “victims” to beware of their skinny jeans after one woman suffered muscle and nerve damage from a too tight pair of pants.

The unidentified 35-year-old woman was wearing “skinny jeans” when she showed up at hospital with ankle weakness and swelling in her lower legs, according to a case study published this week. The woman told doctors she had been helping a family member move, which led to hours of squatting to clean out cupboards.

She “recalled that her jeans had felt increasingly tight and uncomfortable during the day,” the study authors said in the article published this week in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

The doctors from the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Adelaide, Australia said as the woman walked home her legs were so numb that at one point she tripped and fell and was unable to get up for hours until help arrived. At the hospital, doctors had to cut the jeans off because they were so tight and found that she had severe weakness in her ankles because her leg nerves had been damaged.

Doctors were surprised to find that squatting in the tight jeans had lead to compartment syndrome, a dangerous condition where an injury leads to swelling of the muscle or nerves that is constrained by a layer of tissue called the fascia. As the swelling continues the fascia is unable to expand and eventually the muscle and nerves can be injured as blood flow is cut off.

Dr. Roy Buchinsky, Director of Wellness at the University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said people should be aware of the red flags of numbness and tingling, which signal pressure is already building in the limb.

“Once the leg starts to swell, the train has left the station,” said Buchinsky. “That’s the sign the muscles are really going to be inflamed and the pressure is way too much.”

He explained sometimes surgery is needed to relieve pressure by cutting open the fascia to give inflamed muscles more room to heal.

In severe cases amputation has been used to help treat the patient.

The dangerous condition is more common in severe trauma including "car accident or crush injury, or surgery," according to the National Institute of Health.

Thankfully for this woman the consequences were not as dire. Unable to walk, she was put her on an IV and bed rest. She was eventually able to walk out of the hospital four days later.

But doctors say the woman's case may give another reason for people to go for a more forgiving pair of pants. In her case they found this was a "new neurological complication of wearing tight jeans."