Even though numerous studies show extensive periods of standing and walking have significant adverse effects on the body, it is not uncommon for nurses to find themselves working 10 to 12 hour days.
Your muscles, joints, tendons, feet, and spine all react differently to long hours on your feet and physical ailments can easily manifest such as neck pain, hip pain, and cramping of muscles; while foot conditions such as corns, calluses, bunions, ingrown toe nails, plantar fasciitis, and foot neuroma (a swollen or thickened nerve in the ball of your foot), can become exasperated causing intense prolonged pain.
What’s Really Happening?
So, what is really happening when we work on our feet all day? The weight of our body is being supported by our bones, muscles, and joints. Each step we take the body is distributing the weight between the hips, knees, ankles and feet. The joints and lubrication in these areas provide cushioning but over time pressure and tearing occur resulting in knee and leg pain.
The spine is designed to maintain an efficient, natural gait cycle when tasked with supporting the body’s weight throughout the day. But not unlike a tree’s branches twisting and turning in response to the harshness of its environment, the spine can take on an unnatural structure resulting in poor posture and causing pain and stiffness in the neck and aching muscles in the lower back area with overuse.
Additionally, the circulatory system can manifest ailments such as varicose veins due to prolonged periods on your feet. Varicose veins occur when your legs take on added weight and pressure causing veins to become dilated and overfilled with blood. They take on a bluish-purple color and can be extremely painful and unsightly in the lower leg region.
We’ve all heard the saying, “health is wealth”, which makes it all that more interesting how tempting it is to ignore our bodies signals of overuse. All too often physical pain is regarded as part of the job and for several of us part of everyday life. Our ability to infuse our work with our love and dedication is admirable but we shouldn’t do this at the cost of our own health. There are ways to better care for ourselves so we are in tip top shape to care for others.
Tips for Working on Your Feet All Day
1. Take Sitting Breaks
First, avoid standing for long periods of time by taking breaks sitting down. Sitting breaks will allow the body a chance to rest, the joints and lubricants can experience less tearing and pressure when the weight is removed at regular intervals. If this seems impossible due to the demanding nature of your job, set daily goals for yourself and fit the sitting breaks in wherever possible. Aim for about 10 to 15 minutes of rest for every 4 to 5 hours or work.
2. Add Stretching to Your Routine
Second, incorporate stretching into your day. Yoga poses are great for stretching the muscles and are easy to do in most places. The downward dog pose is best for stretching the legs, hamstrings, while decompressing the spine. The warrior pose, another great Yoga pose, is also great for strengthening the legs and hips. Yoga poses work so well because they keep muscles warm and loose, while increasing blood flow.
3. Choose Footwear Designed to Support Your Feet
Lastly, invest in supportive footwear designed for all day wear. There are many to choose from and great brands like Klogs Footwear specialize in the prevention of fatigue and foot pain by using contoured arch support and microfiber footbeds for added comfort. If you are managing foot ailments such as bunions or hammertoes, Drew Shoes feature wider width shoes as well as shoes with stretch material which accommodates for foot conditions like hammertoes or toes rubbing against the shoe. Vionic shoes are a great choice for those suffering from foot neuroma as well as plantar fasciitis. Or if you already have a favorite shoe and just need added support or have flat feet, add an insole. There are many great insoles on the market such as Spenco Insoles and Orthaheel Insoles.
It’s not always easy to put goals into practice but if you can implement a few of the above suggestions into your routine, the health benefits far outweigh any reason you may find to keep things status quo.