Updated 28 June 2017

Your skinny jeans can land you in hospital

Long periods of squatting in tight jeans can cause muscle and nerve damage, a new case study suggests.

The research involved a 35-year-old woman who arrived at a hospital complaining of severe weakness in both her ankles. The day before, she had helped a relative move and spent many hours squatting while emptying cupboards. She said she was wearing tight "skinny" jeans that became increasingly uncomfortable as the day progressed.

That evening, she developed numbness in her feet and had difficulty walking. She tripped and fell, and spent several hours on the ground before she was found.

When she arrived at the hospital, her calves were so swollen that her jeans had to be cut off, the researchers said. She had lost feeling in her lower legs and feet, and could not move her ankles or toes properly.

Doctors determined she had a condition called compartment syndrome. Squatting for a long time in the tight jeans had caused swelling that damaged muscle and nerve fibers in her lower legs due to prolonged compression.

After four days of treatment, she was able to walk on her own again and was sent home, according to the report.

What causes compartment syndrome?

Groups of muscles in the arm and leg are enclosed by a layer of thick, non-stretchable tissue called fascia. This fascia separates the tissues into compartments containing the muscles, their blood supply, veins, nerves and lymphatic drainage. In addition, other blood vessels and nerves may pass through the compartment on their way to other compartments.

Anything which increases the pressure inside the compartment will compress the contents (blood vessels and nerves etc) because the fascia surrounding it cannot stretch.

The treatment of any compartment syndrome is to relieve the pressure.

The case study was reported by Thomas Edmund Kimber, an associate professor in the neurology unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, University of Adelaide in Australia. It was published online June 22 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

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