Skinny jeans, skinnies, slim-fit pants, cigarette pants, pencil pants, tight pants and drain pipes – all these names denote the same insanely popular garment that clings to your legs in a snug fit and accentuates their shape.
Skinny jeans are a fashion trend that refuses to fizzle out. Even hipster icon Russell Brand, America’s sweetheart Emma Stone and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton can be seen sporting a pair every now and then.
The style transitioned in so smoothly that most of us can hardly recall the first time we slipped out of our straight-fit pants and adorned a flattering pair of skinnies.
Contrary to their name, they come in all shapes and sizes. You can wear them casually or pair them with a fancy top and accessories.
Beside their fabulous appearance, they’re available in a range of prices that fit everyone’s budget.
All these factors contribute to the never-diminishing appeal of skinny jeans.
However, here’s a less talked about aspect of skinny jeans: How does their tight fit affect your body and health?
Yes, skinny jeans are responsible for icky, sweaty legs and may often be uncomfortable on the waist.
However, these slight discomforts wane in the face of the real damage they are capable of causing.
Skinny Jeans & Your Health – A Case Study
Earlier in the year, a 35-year-old Australian woman experienced some health complications from wearing a pair of too-tight skinny jeans and had to be taken to the hospital, according to a 2015 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.
The woman had been helping a relative move from one home to another. She had been in a squatting position for many hours, emptying cupboards and moving stuff around.
As the day passed and she continued her work, her jeans started to feel excessively uncomfortable, restrictive and tight.
When she was walking back home in the evening, she began experiencing numbness in her lower legs and feet. She also experienced bilateral foot drop, a condition in which a person is unable to lift the front of their foot off the ground and experiences extreme difficulty walking.
As a result, she tripped and fell. Unable to move her feet, ankles and legs, she laid on the ground for hours before she was discovered and taken to a hospital.
Medical Examination & Results
When the woman reached the hospital, her legs were so swollen that the jeans had to be cut off in order to be removed.
Upon examination, the doctors discovered excessive swelling of the lower legs. They found impairment of toe and ankle function along with extreme weakness in these areas. A loss of sensation on the sides of the lower legs, as well as the tops and soles of both feet, was reported.
A CT scan of the legs showed that the calf muscle appeared “hypo-attenuated”, a condition in which a part of the body appears darker in an X-ray because it has suffered a stroke or trauma and damage of some kind.
The peroneal and tibial nerves are a group of nerves that supply movement and sensation to the toes, feet, calf muscles and lower legs through electrical signals. The scan revealed these electrical signals were blocked, rendering the legs and feet numb and immobile.
A Tight Pair of Jeans – The Culprit
Maintaining a squatting position for so long, and without a break, compressed the nerves in the lower leg and severely damaged them.
Furthermore, the tight-fit, skinny jeans exacerbated the situation, allowing no room for the muscles and legs to breathe. This inhibited blood flow to the lower leg muscles, leading to extreme pressure and swelling in the muscles that further compressed the nerves.
Sometimes, surgery is the only option to relieve this extreme pressure, by cutting open the fascia tissue that acts as a protective layer over the muscles.
It took the woman four days to fully recover and walk again.
Other Health Problems
Although not as severe as nerve damage, other health complications can be caused by a pair of jeans that are just a little too tight.
1. Meralgia Paraesthetica
In popular culture, meralgia paraesthetica has come to be known as “the skinny pants syndrome”. This condition occurs when the nerve that is responsible for supplying movement and sensation to your thigh is compressed, often because of wearing an increasingly tight pair of jeans.
It is characterized by a tingling sensation, as well as a burning and shooting pain, in the outer area of the thigh. Other symptoms include pain that extends to the knees and buttocks, as well as intensifying pain when the affected area is exposed to heat (such as a hot shower).
People diagnosed with meralgia paraesthetica frequently wore “hip-huggers” (low-waist skinny jeans) and reported tingling and burning as associated symptoms, according to a 2003 study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
Symptoms may also worsen when engaging in physical activity that further strains the thighs, such as walking, jogging or running.
2. Lipoatrophia Semicircularis
Lipoatrophia semicircularis is commonly referred to as a case of “ribbed thighs”. In this condition, a person develops lesions or depressions on specific areas of the thighs.
This can occur for a variety of reasons, including wearing skinny jeans. Ribbed thighs usually develop in those who, in addition to wearing tight jeans, remain in a seated position (for example, in the workplace) for long hours.
A woman who frequently wore a tight pair of skinny jeans and worked a desk job that required her to sit for hours reported lesions in the thighs where the tight jeans exerted the maximum pressure, according to a 2008 study by Spanish Researchers.
Associated symptoms include tingling, burning, itching and irritation of the skin.
3. Reproductive Problems in Men
Wearing tight skinny jeans may lead to a testicular torsion, a condition in which the testicle twists. If not medically treated, the testicle can lose blood circulation, leading to further damage. However, it rarely comes to that, as the condition is so painful that men rush to seek medical help.
Skinny jeans can also raise the heat in the groin area and reduce sperm production.
4. Bladder Problems
Tight skinny jeans can severely irritate the groin area over time. The tight-fitting waist can also put pressure on the bladder, and exacerbate an existing bladder infection. For this reason, people suffering from urinary tract infections are strictly warned against wearing tight bottoms.
The tight-fitting waist of skinny jeans can put excessive pressure on the abdomen, forcing the stomach acid to flow upwards, thereby increasing the risk of heartburn.