Skinny Jean and Compressive Garment Injury

The news of a “skinny jean injury” hit the press this morning. This is just one type of issue that can arise from garments that compress areas of your body. You move through your environment, but remember, your environment can also move you right back. In this case, the environment is sixty-five-pound capacity pants for an eighty-pound lower body.


I’ve said it before, I’ve said it again, and I’ve even gone on record in an interview on how compressive garments can do physical harm. From Should You Wear Spanx While Pregnant:

Katy Bowman, a biomechanist and author of Move Your DNA, points out that even non-pregnant women can suffer side effects from constricting garments, so pregnant women would be smart to steer clear. “In non-pregnant women, support wear has been shown to negatively impact digestion, breathing, and continence,” she points out. “Why? You’re not a Nerf ball, you’re a person. Pressing your belly in toward your spine means your guts have to go up toward your diaphragm, making breathing or digestion more difficult, or down, increasing the strain on the pelvic floor.”

What I mean by “you’re not a Nerf ball” is, you don’t come with extra space, like the foam used to make a Nerf toy. Compressing your parts comes with consequences, and pushing on one part pushes on another and another and another. Compressive garments don’t only push on the larger pressure chambers of your thoracic, abdominal, and pelvic cavities, they push on what’s inside of these chambers.

You are body full of tubes—tubes with important jobs. When you push on a tube, the fluid inside of it has to move elsewhere, and the flow through the tube changes.

Here is a list of tubes that live inside your pants:



Lymphatic tubes

The digestive tract


Small intestine

Large intestine

Tubes through your privates*


Here is a list of potentially compressive garments:

Skinny jeans

Compressive garments that are advertised as compressive garments

Tight underwear



Tight pants

Pants that are too small or tight


So anyhow, seems like kind of an expensive tax to pay for your outfit. And now, back to finishing my upcoming book on Diastasis Recti, that includes EVEN MORE geekery on pressures, injury, and how we can change things–like our pants–for a better physical outcome.

*I just wanted to see what typing that sentence felt like.

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34 thoughts on “Skinny Jean and Compressive Garment Injury

  1. When is that book going to be available? There is so little information on the topic and a lot of people selling “miracles programes” to solve the problem of diastasis in 12 weeks!! Tons of squattings will do, so they say! Please Katy I know there is not a magical cure for undoing all the harm made throughouth a lifetime of sedentery life but there must be something we can do!

  2. “You are not a nerf ball” –thanks for this delightful quotable, which I’ll be sharing with my patients 🙂 It’s hard enough getting people with back pain to part with high heels — humor helps.

  3. What is even worse is a new trend being touted by celebrities which is the wearing of “waist trainers” – basically ridiculously tight corset type garments to trim the waist. You look at these selfies they post and just cringe at what they are doing to their internal organs. Just another step backwards in what society sees as beauty in women – we may as well start binding our feet as well.

  4. I so agree and find your humor the right touch to deal with something that our society is taking hold of in a very unfortunate way.

    BTW, I wonder if there is a way to think about the natural rhythms of the body as being effected by tight garmets.

    Katy, have you ever spoken about (or would you) rhythm and the human body/brain? I ‘m noticing that walking has many rhythms activated that running as an example does not – more holding. How is walking and rhythm fostering emotion regulation?

    appreciate your ideas!

  5. I may not be a nerf ball, but I am an alignment nerd. These practical, no nonsense observations and suggestions are the antidote to all the vanity insanity out there. Cast off your compressors and free your tubes! Thank you KBC!

  6. Wondering if you’ve written about or have an opinion on belly binding ‘post’ birth though..
    For post partum recovery..

      1. I did see jeans + leggings called jeggings in a store once. Pights. Same difference. Weird. Spell check likes neither of them.

  7. Say….how about compression garments given to those of us who have had liposuction…, not to be skinny…to fill in the spots with the harvested fat that breast cancer caused us to need “up a little higher”. I’ve been wearing the garment for 2 weeks and a compression thing on my breasts (or whose ever they are…. I think Mentor is the company name). Am I hurting my temporarily fragile self? I must say…it’s not very comfy after you’ve been thru a few unfortunate gutting episodes. Compressing me is about the last thing I want to feel.

  8. I’m interested in your observations on diastasis recti. I had no idea what that even was until recently but since I have two kids and a bit of a baby paunch I checked myself out and thankfully I seem fine. (Just flabby, apparently. Never fear, I understand I am not a nerf ball!) However, a few weeks ago, I was tickling my six year old son when he had his shirt off and he scrunched up and I noticed quite a sizeable gap between his abs! He has some major pelvic floor issues and I was wondering if this was contributing to them. I asked his pelvic floor physiotherapist about it and she didn’t seem too concerned but I can’t help but think there is a connection. Anyway, long story to explain why I’m wondering if the book you’re writing might be relevant to help kids and/or men as well. All the websites I find only talk about it in reference to adult women.

  9. I remember several years ago doctors warning against jeans that sat under the hip bone too tightly. And pressing directly on a nerve. I like my jeans just above the hip bone. Mid-rise, I guess.

    1. Agreed. I can’t wear yoga pants, spandex, and other workout attire to work. I can wear jeans (and skirts and dresses-but they are not very practical for my job), but it’s hard to find jeans or slacks that fit, aren’t hideous, and/or super expensive-except for skinny jeans. Most of the skinny jeans/jeggings I have are very stretchy and seem to accommodate the lifting, bending, etc. that I encounter on a daily basis pretty well. If I can’t wear those things-what DO I wear?

  10. Would you please offer some suggestions about what TO wear? I like skirts, but don’t really enjoy flashing everyone when I squat or cartwheel in them. I like jogging shorts, but not the built-in undies so much after awhile. I love my sweats but need to leave the house once in awhile, plus they get hot in summer. Stretchy spandex and thongs don’t work for long periods, either. I’m lost about what to wear that makes sense (and that’s flattering to boot). Blog post STAT, please!

    1. I also wear a belt-I just don’t wear it too tight. I do not want my pants falling down as they stretch a bit from wear throughout the day. I also don’t want to have “dumpy butt” because the seat of my pants has stretched and my pants are sagging down. A belt helps eliminate that. I do a lot of bending and lifting, and I can’t have my butt crack hanging out all the time and my pants sagging down.

  11. Great post, as usual! Next blog post idea: those baggy pants people wear now days that cause them to alter their walk just so the pants don’t slide off into a pile at their feet. Imagine what that’s doing to their muscles and joints?

  12. Jessica, I like skirts too, especially in the summer. Stretchy skirts are my favourite, and I also like riding my bike and sitting on the grass, etc. Another blogger (Ally at Wardrobe Oxygen) got me onto wearing slip-shorts. Basically smooth shorts that don’t ride up or add too much bulk. They’re NOT shapewear; I’m not squeezed. Wearing them now, as a matter of fact. Mine are made my Jockey but I’m pretty sure there are other brands who make such things. Breathable too.

  13. Will you please include in your book healing a diastasis when the bladder and uterus are prolapsed?

  14. for the ladies who read or post here: you will likely become a comfort-clothes convert when you get going with menopause because lots of uncomfortable things happen when menopause gets rolling, namely-midsection weight gain, hot flashes, etc. don’t know about you but I for one prefer layered loose fitting clothes and flat or negative heeled shoes (when I go to work). Alternatively wear dresses, or elastic waisted LLBeans perfect pants (they come in lots of colors, fit well, and can be worn for work or play). IMO – anyone over 30 really should NOT be wearing skinny jeans, because they look ridiculous and are horribly unflattering, no matter the body size (even teens and twenty somethings look ridiculous in them). Also, my hub thinks my ass and thighs look just fine in relaxed fit jeans.

    1. That’s all well and good, but where do we find relaxed fit jeans, let alone ones that fit decent? I’m not about to wear the frumpy “mom jeans” from the gap or costco. I’m about to be 30 and I look better than ever because I am taking care of my body, which I intend to do for the rest of my life, so I think I’ll go ahead and dress as fashionable and youthful as I want. If I feel good in it and it fits, I’m going to wear it. No need to look frumpy just because I am aging. Screw that. It’s not about what other people think. Functional fashion needs to be a thing, though, so I can actually find these well-fitting clothes that are attractive AND suitable for movement. Sigh.

  15. I’ve been thinking a lot about what my clothes – especially jeans – are doing to me, so this is timely. I would so appreciate a post about good clothing choices!

    A question: I’ve had two kids so far. Definitely a significant DR starting in my first pregnancy. Actually, she was born two weeks after the due date, and when she wasn’t descending my midwife told me to buy a belly band – like a compression girdle designed to be used during pregnancy – to help get her lower in my pelvis. (I guess the thought was that my abdominals were too weak/separated to do their job, so I needed help.) It seemed to work. I wore the same girdle-thing during my second pregnancy. (My children are 18 months apart and I still had maybe a three-finger DR on becoming pregnant.) It seemed to help tremendously as far as back pain, etc., plus my baby was very low at the end and labor took 2.5 hours, instead of 12 like my first. (Both were good labors.) Anyway, this is long and I apologize for that, but I wonder what your thoughts are since I did find that garment so helpful. (Oh, I also wore it while pushing my second baby out, since I know that DR can be aggravated during pushing. He did come out fast! I didn’t have a “crater belly” after his birth, either, though still a fairly significant separation.)

  16. I’m also curious about what to where as well. Often you are wearing legging which I enjoy as well. Are those okay? Or shall we do as my six year old insists and just be naked all the time because ‘everyone has all the same parts.’ Yes I do let her run around the house naked. No, I don’t let her go out like that 🙂

  17. My new favorite KB quote: “…seems like kind of an expensive tax to pay for your outfit.”

  18. Great article Katy, I am an Osteopath from the UK and have always been concerned about the effects of restrictive clothing on function. I cannot count the number of times in 28 years of practise that I have seen a woman present with low back problems, plus period problems and/or digestive and bowel symptoms. They tend to be in office jobs, often wearing heels all day and wearing tight skirts or trousers. I’ve always believed that there is a connection between the restriction in movement in the lower body, combined with poor breathing mechanics and these type of symptoms. It is amazing the effect that good education and treatment can have. Great blog, look forward to reading more.

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