Doctors in Australia have documented in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal “a new neurological complication of wearing tight jeans” that could be potentially more hazardous than the tingling sensations and numbness in the thigh — the result of “lesions of the lateral cutaneous nerve of the thigh, likely caused by compression of the nerve at the inguinal ligament” — that some people have reported earlier.
The new complication, seen in a 35-year-old woman in Adelaide, was the result of “compartment syndrome” — a condition in which dangerously high pressure builds up in a group of muscles or organs in the body, impeding the flow of blood to and from the ‘compartment’ of tissues — greatly exacerbated by the pair of skinny jeans that she was wearing.
The study, Fashion victim: rhabdomyolysis and bilateral peroneal and tibial neuropathies as a result of squatting in ‘skinny jeans’, reported that the woman, who was helping a family member move homes, had been squatting for many hours emptying cupboards, and had felt her jeans get increasingly tight and uncomfortable.
While walking home that evening, her feet had gone numb, and she had tripped and fallen, and lain immobile for several hours before she was found. Doctors found her lower legs swollen enormously, her ankles and toes could not move, and they had to cut her jeans off. Muscle power at the hips and knees, and renal function were normal.
Investigations showed a very high creatine kinase level, oedema in the lower legs, and a hypoattenuation of the posterior calf muscles consistent with myonecrosis (destruction or death of muscles/gangrene). There was a conduction block in both the common peroneal nerves.
The woman was given intravenous hydration which improved the oedema and neurological function of her lower limbs, but it was still four days before she was able to walk unaided and could be discharged from hospital.
While prolonged squatting may cause common peroneal neuropathy (damage to the peroneal nerve leading to loss of movement/sensation in the foot and leg), combined common peroneal and tibial neuropathies had not previously been described in association with squatting.
The paper postulates that the peroneal neuropathies were caused by compression between the biceps femoris tendon and fibular head as a result of squatting, while the tibial neuropathies were likely caused by compression of the nerves in the posterior compartment of the calf by oedematous muscles that had undergone ischaemic myonecrosis as a result of squatting. The wearing of skinny jeans had likely potentiated the tibial neuropathies by causing a compartment syndrome as the lower legs swelled.
The study appeared in Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry