Skinny jeans can cause nerve damage, doctors warn

Carolyn Morris
Shine On
May 24, 2012

Do you get out the pliers to squeeze into your skinny jeans, in homage to that memorable Dazed and Confused scene? Or maybe your morning routine involves a bit of hopping up and down and sucking in of your tummy.

Well, sorry to cramp your style, fashionistas, but your style could be cramping your health.

According to doctors, tight jeans can cause nerve damage called "meralgia paresthetica." That's the medical term for pain or abnormal sensation, or both, in the front and side of your thigh.

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"It's a disorder that occurs when one of the nerves that runs in the outer part of a thigh gets compressed," Dr. Karen Boyle, a surgeon at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, tells ABC2News. "The pressure on it causes symptoms of tingling, numbness and pain in the outer part of the thigh."

Canadian physician and medical director of Timmins & District Hospital, Dr. Malvinder Parmar wrote about this nefarious effect of tight jeans in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2003.

He'd seen three slightly obese women between the ages of 22 to 35 who complained of a tingling or burning feeling in their thighs. While one was worried she might have multiple sclerosis, which can lead to dysfunctions in the nervous system, it turns out their tight jeans were to blame.

"In all three patients, the symptoms resolved after four to six weeks of avoiding hiphuggers and wearing loose-fitting dresses," he writes.

"Now that hiphuggers are back in fashion," he notes, "physicians can expect to see more patients with tingly thighs."

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And it makes matters worse is if you combine your skinny jeans with heels.

"When you wear high heels the axis of your pelvis changes," Dr. Boyle tells ABC2News. "But because the pelvis tilts some, it further accentuates the pressure that's caused on those nerves. It can make the symptoms worse."

She suggests jeggings or skinny jeans with a little more stretch, perhaps spandex.

And while the symptoms will usually disappear if you put aside your tight jeans, if you decide to grin and bear it in the name of fashion, you might be looking at more permanent damage to your nerves.

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