Health & Wellness

Woman hospitalized after her skinny jeans caused muscle damage

There may be a risk to wearing skinny jeans — and not because they can make your butt look big.

A 35-year-old Australian woman became a victim of fashion when she experienced serious muscle and nerve problems in her legs after wearing super tight jeans.

“We were surprised that this patient had such severe damage,” Thomas Kimber tells TODAY via email. He treated the woman and works as a neurologist at Royal Adelaide Hospital and clinical associate professor at the University of Adelaide in Australia.

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The woman was helping a family member move while wearing her skinny jeans. Throughout the day, she squatted to remove and pack items. As the day progressed, her jeans felt tighter and tighter.

At home later, her feet became numb, she struggled to walked, and crashed onto the floor. The pants become so restrictive she couldn’t move and she was sprawled on the floor for hours until someone rescued her.

At the hospital, doctors cut off the skinny jeans — her calf muscles had swelled up so much that peeling off the pants was impossible.

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How tight is too tight?

“We believe it was the combination of squatting and tight jeans that caused the problems. Squatting would have compressed the peroneal nerves in the lower leg and reduced the blood supply to the calf muscles,” Kimber says.

As the calf muscles swelled, the added pressure compressed the tibial nerves, causing even less blood flow to the muscles. And, the skinny jeans prevented her muscles from swelling out, putting extra pressure on the nerves and blood vessels.

She suffered from compartment syndrome, which occurs when the pressure increases in the compartments of the arms or the legs. People with it experience pain, pins and needles, paralysis, lack of pulse, tension, and swelling in the effected limb. Often a traumatic event, such as a car accident, causes it.

But weight lifting or running can also lead to it, says Dr. David Geier, a sports medicine expert and orthopedic surgeon in Charleston, South Carolina.

“This has been reported outside of clothes before,” he says. “Because you work out really hard, the muscle swells and there is only so much room in the leg or arm and no room for the muscles to expand. The blood vessels and nerves can get compressed.”

Kimber and his colleagues treated the woman with IV fluids to flush her body of the proteins that release after the pressure in the muscles lessens. She walked out of the hospital after four days, with no lasting damage expected.

But, before swapping all your skinny jeans for flares, there's a simple way to wear them safely: be careful about squatting for long periods of time.

If any discomfort or tingling occurs when you do, "stand up and move around,” says Kimber.

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