So-called “skinny jeans” (slim-fitting jeans tapered at the ankle) are a fashion statement to many but could also be a health risk when combined with excess squatting, according to a case report published online in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

A 35-year-old female presented with severe weakness of both ankles; the day before she had been assisting a family member with a move and spent many hours squatting while emptying cupboards. The patient had been wearing “skinny jeans” that felt increasingly tight and uncomfortable as the day progressed. She experienced bilateral foot drop and foot numbness, which led to her tripping and falling. Because she was unable to get up, she spent several hours on the ground until she was found.

Her lower legs were so swollen that her jeans had to be cut off her body. Tests showed markedly elevated creatine kinase of 73,215 IU/L and CT scans of the lower legs indicated marked edema and hypoattenuation of the posterior calf muscles consistent with myonecrosis. There was a conduction block in both common peroneal nerves between the popliteal fossa and fibular head.

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The physicians believed that these peroneal neuropathies were due to compression between the biceps femoris tendon and fibular head due to the squatting. The “skinny jeans” had likely potentiated the tibial neuropathies after triggering a compartment syndrome as the lower legs swelled. After being treated with intravenous hydration, the edema and neurological function in her lower limbs significantly improved. She was discharged four days later and was able to walk unaided.

The authors call this case a “new neurological complication of wearing tight jeans,” but patients shouldn’t toss their “skinny jeans” just yet. As long as the jeans are loose enough to not cause compression and are not worn during physical activities like squatting, patients can be fashion-forward without health repercussions.

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