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Are Tight Jeans Bad? Weird Side Effects of Wearing ‘Too Tight’ Jeans

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Are tight jeans bad - Dr. Axe

The fashion industry has declared that “Skinny Jeans Are Dead.” But you may find yourself Googling “Are tight jeans bad” for another reason: weight gain. A Spring 2021 report from the American Psychological Association found that 42 percent of people gained more weight than intended between early 2020 and Spring 2021. Of those, the average weight gain was 29 pounds.

So if your jeans are feeling super snug these days, know that you aren’t alone. But use the side effects of wearing tight jeans outlined below as inspiration to start shedding those extra pounds so you can feel more comfortable and healthy.

1. Tight Jeans and Vaginal Health

Are skinny jeans bad? Many doctors and researchers say vaginal health issues are more common complaints linked to wearing jeans that are too tight.

In 2019, researchers from Boston University’s Public School of health published a study that found wearing tight jeans regularly increased a woman’s risk of experiencing vulvodynia, a condition characterized by chronic pain in a female’s external genital area.

Researchers looked at hygiene and pants preference and found:

  • Women wearing tight-fitting jeans four or more times a week had twice the odds of vulvodynia compared to women who never wore tight pants.
  • Females who opted to remove all of their pubic hair (versus just in the bikini line area) were 74 percent more likely to have vulvodynia.

Aside from that, wearing tight-fitting jeans is also linked to:

Interestingly, some health experts believe other factors are more likely to play into yeast infections, including things that increase your risk of candida symptoms, like taking broad-spectrum antibiotics.

That doesn’t mean you need to haul all of your skinny jeans off to the Goodwill, but be sure to mix it up and wear looser, more breathable shorts, pants and skirts to keep airflow and blood flow moving. And skip skinny jeans altogether if you’re exercising, doing something that requires exertion or if it’s super hot outside.

2. Compartment Syndrome and Nerve Damage

One of the most shocking side effects of wearing tight jeans involves the 2015 case of an Australian woman.

A day after repeatedly squatting while helping a family member pack up for a move, paramedics found the 35-year-old woman on the ground and had to cut the tight jeans off of her body. She spent four days in the hospital being treated for rhabdomyolysis and lower-extremity neuropathy.

The combination of exertion through excessive squatting and super tight jeans caused nerve damage to the tibial and perineal nerves in the leg, along with major swelling. This caused a serious condition called compartment syndrome.

While it may sound like a joke, tight pant syndrome, also known as skinny jean syndrome, is a real thing. It is clinically dubbed meralgia paresthetica, and it involves nerve entrapment stemming from the lateral cutaneous nerve that runs from the abdomen to the thigh.
The condition is characterized by a tingling, numbing, and/or burning pain in the outer thigh region. In fact, it’s sometimes even referred to as “tingling thigh syndrome,” and it can be tricky to diagnose.
Mainly caused by obesity, and yes, tight clothing, people with diabetes sometimes also experience meralgia paresthetica.
It could be bad to wear tight pants around the waist when you’re pregnant, too. Research shows that pregnant women are at an increased risk of experiencing “tight jean syndrome.”
Thankfully, if it’s clothing related, wearing looser pants is usually a quick fix. In the long-term, aim to lose excess pounds to fall into a healthier BMI range.

3. Fertility for Men

Skinny jeans may be a bad idea for men trying to actively have children. A 2018 study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology found that the type of clothing a man chooses to wear could impact reproductive health.

For instance, one study found men who wear tight-fitting underwear and pants have impaired semen quality compared to those favoring a looser fit. (Men who wear boxers, for instance, are shown to have 25 percent higher sperm concentration compared to tight underwear wearers.)

4. Joint Issues and Back Pain

Wearing tight jeans can throw off the healthy rhythm between your lower back and hips, negatively impacting your posture. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that wearing tight jeans causes excessive low-back flexion, which can overstretch connective tissue, fascia and increase stress on your discs.

The researchers concluded that “wearing tight pants could produce musculoskeletal disorders via abnormal movement and posture in the lumbar spine and pelvis.”

5. Abdominal Pain and Digestive Health

Wearing too-tight jeans can also aggravate GERD symptoms and other hiatal hernia symptoms. Wearing a tight belt can increase pressure in the stomach and cause pain and acid reflux. And tight pants could do the same. This can especially worsen when you forward bend in tight jeans. (AKA, don’t garden and exercise in tight jeans.)

Otherwise, what about blood clots? Although there are lots of headlines linking skinny jeans to blood clots, that isn’t exactly playing out in medical research. Still, there is some limited evidence that tight-fitting things can cause issues. For instance, a 2003 report published in The Irish Medical Journal outlined the case of a tiler who developed deep vein thrombosis while wearing tight knee pads. Although venous compression is an extremely rare cause of deep vein thrombosis, researchers found that this prolonged compression of the popliteal vein — a main route to carry blood from the leg back to the heart — attributed to the clot.

So just use common sense: If your jeans are so tight that they’re causing pain, numbness, tingling or burning, it’s time to find a looser pair. Why suffer?

Final Thoughts

  • Although many fashion experts are saying “skinny jeans are dead,” many of us still wear them, or are experiencing tight jeans due to weight gain.
  • Many sensational headlines link wearing tight skinny jeans to blood clots, but that isn’t playing out in the literature.
  • Wearing tight jeans is more likely to trigger issues like reduced sperm quality in men; for women, vaginal yeast or bacterial infections are more common.
  • Wearing tight pants could result in “skinny jean syndrome,” a condition that features nerve impingement. It can also lead to poorer posture that stressed out your back.
  • It’s not good or bad to wear jeans. Just make sure you are comfortable and not experiencing any tingling, pain, burning or numbness.
Josh Axe

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