The Health Risks Hiding In Your Closet

Ill-fitting bras, pants that you have to squeeze into and shapewear that restrict movement are not only uncomfortable but can harm you as well. Here’s what you need to be careful about.

By D Tejaswi
08 Aug 2021

What if we told you that there is a chance your favourite pair of jeans can land you in the hospital? As unbelievable as it sounds, that’s exactly what happened to an Australian woman in 2015. She spent the day squatting and lifting boxes while helping a family member move into a new home. As the day progressed her feet became numb, eventually she fainted, when she was taken to the hospital, nurses had to cut the jeans off because her legs were swollen. Tests revealed extensive muscle and nerve damage to her legs. The doctors were so taken aback that the case was reported in the journal Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Journal of Physical Therapy Science says that uncomfortable clothing could cause many problems in our cardiovascular systems and visceral organs (soft internal organs of the body, including the lungs, the heart, and the organs of the digestive, excretory, reproductive, and circulatory systems). It may deform muscles, cut off sensation to the thighs, squeeze a sensory nerve under the hip bone, causing a tingling, burning sensation.

“Constrictive clothing can cause widespread or local pain, put people at a higher risk of skin infection and allergies, and decrease the air flow encouraging the proliferation of fungi and bacteria,” says Dr Vandana Sinha, obstetrician-gynecologist, Apollo Hospitals, Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Skin is a sensitive organ. It reacts to the dyes, resins, fibres and other chemicals in the clothes we wear. If you feel itchy, or notice a rash, this is a warning sign,” says the doctor.


  • Muscular discomfort from tight pants:

Tight pants create intra-abdominal pressure, pushing the stomach acid back—triggering acid reflux. “Keeping tight pants on after you have heavy meals can restrict your stomach expansion. Furthermore, it can exacerbate health concerns such as bloating, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or intestinal pain,” says the doctor.
For men, wearing tight pants or underwear can affect their sperm count. Sperm production needs a lower temperature than the body’s internal temperature. “Wearing tight jeans keeps testicles closer to the body heat which can lower sperm count,” says Dr Sinha.


Tips to reduce your health risks with tight pants

  • If possible, try to loosen your belt or waist settings of the pants after you eat.
  • Choose breathable, natural fabric pants such as cotton.
  • Don’t go to sleep with tight pants on.


  • Injuries and cuts from compression garments:

Body shapers including compression stockings can create pressure sores. A study by British Journal of General Practice finds that inappropriately worn compression stockings have the potential to break the skin, especially in older, malnourished patients. Other compression garments, the ones worn on thighs or belly, can irritate the nerves and cause swelling due to restricted blood flow, says Dr Sinha.


Tips to reduce your health risks with compression garments

  • Stay away from compression garments at night.
  • Avoid rolling or scrunching your compression socks when putting them on or taking them off.
  • The rule of thumb is to check if you are able to pass your hand under the garment without putting any strain.


  • Headaches from tight neckties:

Tight neckties can lead to circulation problems. A study published in Neuroradiology, 2018 says that tight neckties can compress jugular veins (veins that collect blood from the skull, brain, and the majority of the neck). “Tight garments around the neck such as tight necktie or tight collars are also associated with headaches and poor eye health. It increases intraocular pressure (fluid pressure inside the eye)—something can cause glaucoma and permanent vision loss in some individuals,” says Dr Sinha.


Tips to reduce your health risks with tight neckties

  • Wear a collar that is comfortable.
  • Choose a hard collar. If your collar is particularly soft, you’ll need to tighten the tie even further.


  • Neck and shoulder pain due to ill-fitting bras

Wearing a tight bra can be a painful experience. “Ignoring it for too long can impact posture, cause sore shoulders and neck pain,” says Dr Sinha. Thin straps of bras can dig into your shoulders and put pressure on nerves, upper back and rib cage. It squeezes the area around the chest, limits your movement and worsens skin issues such as heat rash.

“When you wear a bra with tight underwiring that rubs against the skin, it can chafe the skin, cause excessive sweating and act as a breeding ground for fungus or bacteria,” says Dr Sharma. At the same time, the wrong cup size offers inadequate support. “Especially if you are someone with large breasts having less support can quickly lead to back pain,” adds the doctor.


Tips to reduce your health risks with tight bras

  • Look for wider shoulder straps that do not put pressure on your shoulders.
  • Consider wearing a bralette (these are wirefree) for comfort.
  • Find the right size. Breast size and mass changes across life-span.
  • Do not forget to adjust your hooks and straps to help ease the pressure.
  • Choose soft cups and breathable fabric over synthetic ones.



  • Infections with tight underwear

When your underwear is made up of non-absorbent material, “it prevents airflow to the genitals, which raises the temperature and humidity, allowing fungi and bacteria to thrive,” explains Dr Sinha.

Tips to reduce your health risks with tight panties

  • Cotton is the best fabric for underwear. Not only is it soft against the skin, it is a good absorbent.
  • Change your underwear at-least once a day, especially after you’ve exercised.
  • Go panty-free to bed, if you are comfortable. If not, opt for loose fitting pajamas.



Follow Us On Instagram