Squatting in skinny jeans can lead to nerve damage, study finds

Doctors explain why squatting in skinny jeans can lead to nerve damage in the lower legs.

Fashionistas beware: A new case study suggests that squatting in skinny jeans can lead to serious nerve damage in your lower legs.

In a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, a team of doctors relay the cautionary tale of a 35-year-old woman who wound up lying prone on the pavement, unable to get up, after spending the day in skinny jeans while helping a relative move.

The anonymous woman recalled that her jeans seemed a bit snug when she pulled them on in the morning, said Thomas Kinder, of the Neurology Unit at the Royal Adelaide Hospital in Australia who lead the study. However, it was only after she spent hours squatting while emptying cupboards that she noticed her legs were feeling increasingly tight and uncomfortable. 

When she was walking home later that evening the woman found that she could no longer move her feet properly, causing her to trip and fall. She spent several hours on the ground before she was discovered and brought to the hospital, according to the report.

By the time the doctors saw the patient, both her legs were so swollen below the knee that the medical team had to cut the jeans off her. She also had severe weakness in her feet and ankles and was not able to walk. Kinder said she was treated with intravenous fluids, but it still took four days for her to use her legs normally again.

"We believe it was the combination of the squatting and tight jeans that caused the problem," he said.

Kinder explained that prolonged squatting has been known to lead to compression of the peroneal nerves, a set of nerves near the knee joint. Squatting has also been shown to reduce blood supply to the calf muscles.

In this case, the woman's calf muscles responded to the lack of blood by swelling, but because she was wearing skinny jeans, the muscles swelled "inwards", compressing another set of nerves called the tibial nerves and further cutting off blood supply to the muscles.

"If the woman had been wearing loose trousers, the calf muscles could have swollen 'outwards' rather than 'inwards,' thus avoiding pressure on the nerves and blood vessels," Kinder said. 

He added that there are no previous reports of squatting alone causing either tibial nerve damage, or such severe calf muscle swelling and damage.

The woman received IV fluids because the muscle damage had caused the severe breakdown of muscle fibers, which could have led to kidney damage if it had not been treated with IV hydration.

Kinder said that the takeaway from the study is that people should not squat for long periods of time, especially while wearing skinny jeans.

"If they experience leg discomfort or tingling while squatting they should stand up and walk around," he said.

In addition -- if you are doing a job that requires a lot of squatting, take the skinny jeans off and put on loose or stretchy pants instead. 

Science rules! Follow me @DeborahNetburn and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.

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