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Skinny Jean Syndrome

Posted 9/14/2016 by UHBlog

Need the skinny on how to relieve thigh and groin pain? Ask us.

How to Skinny Jean Syndrome

If your teenager makes fun of you for wearing “Mom jeans,” be assured there’s medical justification for choosing comfort over fashion.

Meralgia paraesthetica – more commonly known as skinny jean syndrome – is a real condition resulting in numbness, burning, tingling or pain in the outer thigh or groin. One culprit? Squeezing into too-tight trousers that cut off circulation.

The syndrome occurs when the nerve running from the thigh to the spinal column compresses, says neurologist Deborah Ewing-Wilson, DO.

“We see this syndrome in slender women wearing tight, tight skinny jeans that put pressure on the nerve, especially if they bend down or squat,” she says.

The condition more commonly occurs in pregnant women, overweight people and diabetics – particularly if they are in a car accident and their seatbelt cuts into the thigh and groin area upon impact. It may also occur when a person’s body mass compresses when bending, squatting or kneeling.

When associated with curve-hugging jeans, treatment for meralgia paraesthetica is straightforward with relief expected within a few days to a week.

“Treatment is conservative, which means remove the offending agent,” Dr. Ewing-Wilson says. “Stop wearing it and find a more comfortable pair of jeans. It’s common sense: If they’re killing you and you have to jump up and down to get into them, they’re too tight.”

Yoga pants, which tend to be made of more breathable fabric and offer a more forgiving fit, are usually a better choice than jeans, she says.

According to Dr. Ewing-Wilson, other treatments include:

  • Losing weight, if necessary
  • Taking anti-inflammatory medication to lessen swelling and discomfort
  • Taking anticonvulsants to reduce pain, burning and numbness – but only if tingling and swelling persist for more than a month

It’s highly unlikely, but if meralgia paraesthetica is left untreated, patients may develop compartment syndrome, which occurs when pressure builds in muscles and nerves. In extreme cases, surgery may be required to cut the fascia (or connective tissue) to relieve pressure and decompress the nerve.

“But it’s generally self-limited and it is benign,” Dr. Ewing-Wilson says of skinny jean syndrome. “My job is to reassure patients it’s not serious, but they have to be aware of what’s causing it and remove the pressure around the groin area.”

Deborah Ewing-Wilson, DO is a neurologist at University Hospitals Aurora Health Center and University Hospitals Twinsburg Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Ewing-Wilson or any other doctor online.

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