How To Relieve Foot Pain From Standing All Day?
From a shop assistant in a store during the sales season, a waiter at the beach bar, a lifeguard at the pool, or a security guard in a theme park parking lot. Summer employment tends to increase, as do the health hazards of those who will spend long hours on their feet at work. In the following lines, we explain the consequences for the health of working standing up in the summer season and what measures to take to avoid them.
Risks Of Spending Many Hours On Your Feet
The sedentary lifestyle that prevails in many jobs is detrimental to cardiovascular health. But much more so is working standing up. A study published in 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology warned that people who do so are twice as likely to have a heart attack or heart failure.
Research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) in collaboration with the Institute for Clinical Evaluation (CIEM), both in Canada, suggested that the risk of heart disease is higher among people whose jobs require predominantly standing (6,6 %) than among individuals whose tasks are carried out mostly sitting down (2.8%).
And it is that working standing for hours – today it is impossible to establish a threshold that determines the number of hours considered as prolonged standing – is related to circulatory stagnation of the legs and chronic venous insufficiency, a danger, especially in summer. «The combination of high temperatures and standing work is associated with the appearance of varicose veins in certain research studies.
This thermal stress compromises the return capacity of the venous system, aggravating possible pre-existing vascular pathologies”, says Edorta Ansoleaga, member of the Official College of Physiotherapists of the Basque Country ( COFPV ).
Even so, in addition to heat, there are other factors that can favor venous problems: being overweight, taking oral contraceptives, family history, the number of hours spent standing, or age (those over 45 are more prone).
But people who carry out their workday standing can not only suffer from circulatory problems. As the physiotherapist explains, the posture they maintain produces a static overload of the lower extremities and the back muscles, as well as constant tension of the balance muscles and the trunk erectors.
For this reason, these workers are also candidates for suffering from spinal pain -especially in the lumbar and cervical spine- or pathologies of the feet, such as metatarsalgia (pain in the forefoot) or plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia that can cause heel pain).
And those who hardly move, such as hairdressers or waiters at a bar, can be affected by considerable stress on the muscle-articular and vascular structures.
Fungi, viruses, and bacteria
What other risks do they face? In addition to the heat derivatives themselves, as stated in the booklet ‘ Work and heat: more prevention in summer ‘, edited by the Department of Business and Employment of the Catalan Generalitat, other problems related to the feet – more exposed to the weather at this time – deserve to be taken into account.
Fungi, bacteria, and viruses, such as the human papillomavirus (HPV), can attack your feet if the condition of your skin is not ideal. Rafael Navarro, general secretary of the General Council of Official Colleges of Podiatrists of Spain, comments on three causes that can break this natural barrier of the body and facilitate its entry:
- Excessive sweat. It causes the skin to macerate, soften and crack.
- Use of flip flops. Repeated flip-flopping causes the skin on the heel to harden and crack, and can lead to other problems, such as sprained ankles.
- Getting stuck in a glass, a thorn… can become a gateway for the human papillomavirus in the form of a wart.
Tips To Avoid Risks Of Working Standing Up In Summer
To avoid injuries or alterations in the osteoarticular and circulatory system, postural rules must be followed, such as those indicated by the Official College of Physiotherapists of the Basque Country:
- Do not stay in the same position for long periods.
- Alternate activities that require standing with others that involve sitting or moving.
- Insert short rest periods between the different activities.
- Modify the environment (furniture, height of objects, lighting, etc.) seeking the most comfortable and safest situation for the back.
- Plan in advance the movements or gestures that you want to perform.
More specific recommendations
- While standing, keep one foot raised and supported on a stool or footrest. Alternate one foot after another. Change your posture frequently.
- Do not stand static, if you can be walking.
- In the case of working in a static standing position, from time to time we must take a few steps (to favor venous return) and lean on the wall (to relax our spine).
- If you work with your arms while standing, do it at a suitable height that allows you to support your arms.
- The head should be kept in the horizontal plane or the cervical spine should be slightly flexed.
- Avoid bringing your shoulders forward, as it favors dorsal kyphosis (curvature of the spine) and forward head movement.
- Schedule work and tasks, to include variation, breaks, and breaks.
- Use external aids, such as compression stockings.
- Do not wear high-heeled shoes, but between 2-5 cm.
- Dress in comfortable and loose clothing that allows complete mobility and does not produce compressions in any area.
- Avoid excessive turns of the trunk, as they accelerate the onset of fatigue. If turns or twists have to be made, they will be done with movements of the hips and knees, instead of with the lumbar spine.
- The load of the body weight must be balanced between both extremities to avoid overloading and be done with the feet slightly apart, thus increasing the base of support of the body.
- Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits such as practicing physical exercise, following a healthy diet, avoiding being overweight, or quitting smoking has a positive effect.
Tips for the feet
As for the feet, “it is essential to control sweat and wherever we walk barefoot,” sums up podiatrist Rafael Navarro. To do this, it is advisable to take care of the skin by protecting it with a cream that helps it remain intact, hydrated, and without cracks.
“They must be specific foot creams that last for hours. Those of the body do nothing, their effect is null », he points out. But if we observe that the skin macerates, turns white, the fingers crack…, we will have to go to the podiatrist. “For sweat, we can prescribe master formulas that work very well, or medications, if there are fungi,” he says.
As for footwear, it is not advisable to wear flip-flops, as they do not provide stability. The recommended thing is a fastened sandal or a breathable shoe. “You have to look for cloth fabrics or ventilation holes, and try to avoid closed shoes, synthetic leather or rubber, as they increase sweating and the risk of infections,” he points out. Mountain shoes with gore-tex are an option.
And socks? In summer they are not always worn, but if they are, the most breathable ones possible are also desirable, such as technical ones for running or mountaineering. «Unlike what is believed, a cotton sock gets wet and soaks a lot: it is bad. A sock made of synthetic fibers that wick away moisture and is always dry is better,” explains the expert.
How To Get Rid Of Foot Pain From Work?
In addition to trying to avoid as much as possible the consequences of working standing up, if it has not been possible to avoid it, there are some effective measures to relieve foot pain after spending a long time standing.
Contrast foot bath
To get immediate relief from foot pain, it is a very effective remedy. The contrast between hot and cold water has an almost immediate anti-inflammatory effect due to the vasoconstriction of the cold water followed by vasodilation after putting the feet in the hot water. This causes increased local circulation and reduces inflammation in the feet, in addition to stimulating the nervous system.
Massage with a tennis ball
It is a simple and effective trick to deflate the feet and relieve pain. It is enough to place the ball under the sole and start rolling it with the foot from the back to the front.
Take off your shoes when you get home and walk barefoot
Going barefoot is great. And, after a day unemployed, even more so. Among the benefits of walking barefoot are those of relaxing and decontracting the foot after spending hours with the stiffness of the shoe.
Give a foot massage
A massage is always relaxing, and if it is on your feet after working on your feet for many hours, it is also vital. Many types of creams and essential oils can be purchased for this. Among the most effective are rosemary, mint, or eucalyptus oil, with anti-inflammatory properties.
The massage can start from the sole to the heel and then focus on the fingers, taking time to do it carefully.