Is Wearing Tight Clothes Bad For Your Health?

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Skin tight bottoms may constrict pelvic nerves causing tingling, numbness, and burning in the thighs with the risk of permanent nerve damage. They may also restrict motion of the hip, spine, and knees. Tight undergarments (bras, briefs, corsets) may increase risk of infertility, testicular and breast cancers, and candidiasis. Slide into comfortable clothing that aren’t two sizes too small.

The commercials for that pair of skinny jeans may tout it as the next best thing. But what they leave out is the harm it can cause your body. Whether it’s fashion or your purse-strings that compel you to wear tight, ill-fitting, or restrictive clothes, remember that these can actually make you physically ill. Silhouette-hugging (or choking!) T-shirts, pencil skirts, drainpipe pants, jeans, neckties, corsets, bras, and briefs can all be potentially dangerous, causing symptoms ranging from mere tingling to breast cancer. Here’s what you need to watch out for.

Nerve Compression

Tight jeans have been shown in many a study to lead to a sensation of pins and needles or tingling or numbness in the thighs, especially in women. They tend to compress a nerve in the pelvic region that provides sensation to the thigh region, resulting in the condition “meralgia paresthetica.” Burning and aching sensations on the front and sides of the thigh are also common symptoms. If the condition persists, it can do permanent damage to your nerves.1

Spine And Muscle Disorders

Tight pants and skirts can hamper the way muscles and joints work. Bending, sitting, and other random movements of the hip and spine can be compromised. They can even lead to disorders of the back over the long term.2 One German study also found that tight-fitting trousers coupled with high heels can trigger diseases of the knee joint.3

A Pain In The Neck

Tight neckties or shirts with tight collars cause their fair share of trouble, from chronic neck pain to muscle spasms. A study by Bozić et al. showed that they can trigger increased pressure in the eyes and even result in glaucoma.4 Researchers also reported migraines in men who wore neckties for too long due to over-sensitization of the nerves in the neck region.5

Lower Sperm Count

The array of innerwear can wreak havoc too if you don’t choose them right! Wearing tight underwear has been shown to adversely affect chromosome numbers in sperms, resulting in abnormal sperms and infertility. Damaged sperms can also lead to the birth of children with neurological deficits such as autism.6

Cancer Scare

Research shows that tight bras, briefs, corsets, and other innerwear can lead to erratic temperatures in these body parts. This “chaotic cooling” can heat up the testis and the breasts, increasing the chances of testicular and breast cancers.7 Tight bras can also hinder lymph drainage that helps eliminate toxins from the breast, another possible cancer trigger.

Fungal Infections

Women who wear tight underwear can develop a common fungal infection called candidiasis or thrush that leads to the inflammation of the vagina. Loose, comfortable, cotton panties are the best way to go. 8

What’s the Alternative?

It isn’t just research that warns you against tight clothes. For centuries, naturopaths have been suggesting the body should be as natural as possible, letting the pores on the skin breathe freely. They recommend steering clear of any restrictive clothing be it a tight turban, tie, belt, or clothes as these can cause a slow-down in circulation.9

Turning a blind eye to fashion (or giving up that trendy pair of tights!) may be something you are reluctant to do. But lighten the brunt of these body chokers as much as possible.

  • Don’t buy smaller sizes in the hope of squeezing yourself in. Comfort has to score over the “see, I’m a size 4” syndrome. Try on clothes and find the right fit for your size and shape.
  • Keep a track of how often and how long you wear tight clothes. For instance, alternate those tight jeans with looser chinos or skirts. Reduce the frequency and duration so they do less harm.
  • Lose weight if you’ve piled on the pounds and your clothes don’t fit right anymore. Get outside, burn some calories, and shed those extra pounds if you’ve crossed your healthy body weight. Alternatively, stop trying to fit yourself into that favorite old tee. Time to move up a size!
  • Pregnant women should steer clear of tight-fitted clothes so they don’t compromise the baby or their own circulation. Meralgia paresthetica is especially common in pregnancy.10 A tight bra is often a cause of mastitis in nursing mothers and is a no-no.11
  • Children and sportspersons should avoid wearing overly fitted clothing as it might restrict movement, leading to falls or muscular injuries. While the role of compression sportswear in improving performance and training is being hotly debated, research is yet to completely substantiate these claims.12

References   [ + ]

1. Moucharafieh R, Wehbe J, Maalouf G. Meralgia paresthetica: a result of tight new trendy low cut trousers (‘taille basse’). Int J Surg. 2008 Apr;6(2):164-8.
2. Yoo WG. Effect of wearing tight pants on the trunk flexion and pelvic tilting angles in the stand-to-sit movement and a seated posture. J Phys Ther Sci. 2016 Jan;28(1):93-5.
3. Rütten M. Diseases of the patella caused by clothing. Z Orthop Ihre Grenzgeb. 1980 Dec;118(6):874-6.
4. Bozić M, Hentova Senćanin P, Branković A et al. Effect of a tight necktie on intraocular pressure. Med Pregl. 2012 Jan-Feb;65(1-2):13-7.
5. Landy S, Rice K, Lobo B. Central sensitisation and cutaneous allodynia in migraine: implications for treatment. CNS Drugs. 2004;18(6):337-42.
6. Jurewicz J, Radwan M, Sobala W et al. Lifestyle factors and sperm aneuploidy. Reprod Biol. 2014 Sep;14(3):190-9.
7. Kumar A. Burn the bra! (and men’s tight underpants too): compromised ‘chaotic’ cooling by constrictive clothing in the causation of testicular and breast cancers. Med Hypotheses. 2009 Dec;73(6):1079-80.
8. Elegbe IA, Botu M. A preliminary study on dressing patterns and incidence of candidiasis. Am J Public Health. 1982 Feb;72(2):176-7.
9. Bakhru, H. K. Naturopathy for Longevity. Jaico Publishing House, 1999.
10. Van Diver T, Camann W. Meralgia paresthetica in the parturient. Int J Obstet Anesth. 1995 Apr;4(2):109-12.
11. Fetherston C. Risk factors for lactation mastitis. J Hum Lact. 1998 Jun;14(2):101-9.
12. Compression garments: Do they really work, British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences.
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.