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Skinny jeans can cause nerve damage, study says

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Posted at 1:10 PM, Jun 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-24 10:17:58-04

If you’re wearing skinny jeans, you may want to stand up for this.

A woman suffered nerve damage to her legs after she wore skinny jeans while helping a friend move. The jeans had to be cut off her.

It is “a new neurological complication of wearing tight jeans,” said a case study report published Monday in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Case studies are used in research to examine in detail the conditions of one or a few patients. They are not the same as a clinical trial.

The anonymous 35-year-old woman reported her jeans getting tighter and more uncomfortable throughout the day. While walking home, she felt her feet go numb and fell. She was found on the ground hours later and arrived in the hospital with “severe weakness” in both of her ankles. 

The doctors wrote that prolonged squatting caused the muscles in her legs to swell, which further compressed them against the jeans.

That resulted in “compartment syndrome,” where soft tissues become trapped inside a closed space and strangle themselves due to the swelling. Compartment syndrome can cause permanent damage to nerves and muscles, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

In this case, nerve function returned after the patient was given intravenous fluid and the jeans were removed. She was able to walk on her own and leave the hospital within four days.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency and may require surgery, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s often caused by trauma like a car accident or crushing injury. It can also be a surgical complication.

The symptoms of compartment syndrome are:

  • Decreased sensation
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Paleness of skin
  • Severe pain that gets worse
  • Weakness

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.