Why You Should Think Twice About Wearing Skinny Jeans

June 23rd 2015

Laura Donovan

Summer is here, and that means dresses and shorts are in and skinny jeans are out for the next few months. A new report reveals another reason you might want to avoid these tight-fitted pants. According to the journal Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, a 35-year-old Australian woman had to have her skinny jeans cut off at Royal Adelaide Hospital after she experienced intense swelling and nerve damage.

How did it happen?

She wore skinny jeans when helping a family member move, another reason to never agree to something like that no matter how much you love someone. According to the report, the process entailed "many hours of squatting while emptying cupboards," causing the jeans to feel "increasingly tight and uncomfortable during the day." After a long and exhausting day, she tried walking home but found it extremely difficult to move her numb feet. She plunged to the ground, laying there for hours before anyone noticed her. She was rushed to a hospital, where medical professionals were forced to cut off her pants because her legs were so swollen.

The test results showed she had "severe global weakness of ankle and toe movements," muscle damage in the calves, and dysfunction in the tibial nerves and peroneal nerves, both of which control feet and leg movements.

The report concludes that squatting likely brought on the peroneal nerve damage.

"[T]he peroneal neuropathies were the result of compression between the biceps femoris tendon and fibular head as a result of squatting," the report reads. "The wearing of ‘skinny’ jeans had likely potentiated the tibial neuropathies by causing a compartment syndrome as the lower legs swelled ... The present case represents a new neurological complication of wearing tight jeans."

Speaking on CBS "This Morning" regarding the 35-year-old Australian woman's traumatic skinny jeans experience, Dr. Tara Narula said, "Essentially what had happened was she had damage to two of the major nerves in the lower legs as well as the muscles and ended up with something called compartment syndrome."

The U.S. National Library of Medicine defines compartment syndrome as a serious condition that "can lead to muscle and nerve damage and problems with blood flow."

When asked about potential warning signs that something is wrong, such as numb feet, Narula explained:

"I think that's one of the big lessons here. You should pay attention if you're starting to feel like you're swelling, your feet or numb or tingling ... Essentially what happened here is that by squatting, you're ... compressing the blood vessels, so you're decreasing blood flow in and out. That causes swelling of the muscles of the legs. When you add to that the skinnier, tight jeans, you're essentially creating a situation almost like having a tourniquet on your arm if you were bleeding. So there's no fluid that can go in and out of those lower legs, the pressure builds up, it compresses the nerves more, it compresses the blood vessels more, and you get this vicious cycle."

For those who plan on squatting or moving anytime soon, Narula recommends wearing more comfortable clothing. 

Another downside of skinny jeans? They can also exacerbate ingrown hairs. Dermatologist Ava Shamban told Women's Health last year that tight clothing causes friction, adding pressure to hair follicles and often causing them to burrow and create unsightly splotches on your skin.

Even though some medical professionals say the Australian woman's disaster is a rare incident that shouldn't stop you from donning skinny jeans ever again, it's probably not a bad idea to let your skin breathe a little more this summer and avoid trapping sweat in your pants. They're also apparently going out of style and are manufactured less, so there is that.