Do you work many hours on your feet? Pay attention to these tips!
From time to time, you should take a few steps to promote venous return (especially in summer) and lean against the wall to relax the spine.
As a shop assistant in a store during the sales season, as a waiter at a beach bar, as a lifeguard at the pool or as a security guard in the parking lot of a theme park . Summer employment tends to increase, as do the health hazards for those who will spend long hours on their feet at work. In the following lines we explain what consequences working standing up in the summer has for health and what measures to take to avoid them.
Risks of spending long hours on your feet
The sedentary lifestyle that prevails in many jobs is detrimental to cardiovascular health. But much more is working standing up. A study published in 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology warned that people who do it are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or heart failure.
Research from the Institute for Work and Health (IWH) in collaboration with the Institute for Clinical Evaluation (ICES), 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 mainly sitting (2.8%).
And it is that working standing for hours -today it is not possible 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 are 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, a 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 the appearance of 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 up 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 muscles of the back, as well as a 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 foot pathologies, such as metatarsalgia (pain in the forefoot) or plantar fasciitis (inflammation of the plantar fascia that can cause heel pain).
And it is those who barely move, such as hairdressers or waiters at a bar, who can be affected by considerable stress on the musculo-articular and vascular structures.
Fungi, viruses and bacteria
What other risks do they face? In addition to the heat derivatives themselves, as exposed in the notebook ‘ Work and heat: more prevention in summer ‘, edited by the Department of Business and Employment of the Catalan Generalitat, other problems related to feet -more exposure to the weather at this time – deserve to be taken into account.
Fungi, bacteria and viruses, such as the human papilloma virus (HPV) , can attack them from the feet, if the state of their skin is not ideal. Rafael Navarro, general secretary of the General Council of Official Colleges of Podiatrists in Spain, comments on three causes that can break this natural barrier of the body and facilitate its entry:
- Excessive sweat. It makes the skin macerated, softened and cracked.
- Use of flip flops . Repeated flipping causes the skin on the heel to harden and crack, as well as other problems such as sprained ankles.
- Sticking a glass, a thorn… can become a way of entry 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 periods of rest between the different activities.
- Modify the environment (furniture, height of objects, lighting, etc.) looking for the most comfortable and safe situation for the back.
- Plan in advance the movements or gestures that you want to make.
More specific recommendations
- While standing, keep one foot up and resting 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 static standing work, from time to time we must take a few steps (to promote 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 the shoulders forward, as it favors dorsal kyphosis (culvature of the spine) and the overtaking of the head.
- Schedule work and tasks, to include variation, breaks and breaks.
- Use external aids, such as comprehension stockings .
- Do not wear high-heeled shoes, but between 2-5 cm.
- Dress in comfortable and spacious clothing that allows full mobility and does not cause compression in any area.
- Avoid excessive turns of the trunk, as they accelerate the appearance of fatigue. If turns or twists have to be performed, 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 overloads 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 impact.
Tips for feet
As for the feet, “it is essential to control sweat and wherever we walk barefoot,” summarizes the podiatrist Rafael Navarro. For this, it is convenient to take care of the skin by protecting it with a cream that helps it to remain intact, hydrated, and without cracks.
They must be specific creams for feet, which last for hours. The ones on the body do nothing, their effect is null», he points out. But if we observe that the skin is macerated, turns white, the fingers crack…, we will have to go to the podiatrist. “For sweat, we can prescribe magisterial formulas that work very well, or medications, if there are fungi,” he says.
As for footwear, it is not advisable to wear flip-flops, since they do not provide stability. The recommended thing is a sandal attached or a breathable shoe. “You have to look for fabrics or ventilation holes, and try to avoid closed shoes, synthetic leather or rubber, as it increases 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 are also desirable, such as technical ones for running or mountaineering. «Contrary to what is believed, a cotton sock gets very wet and soaking wet: it is bad. A synthetic fiber sock that wicks 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 cold water followed by vasodilation after putting the feet in hot water. This causes an increase in local circulation and reduces inflammation in the feet, as well as stimulating the nervous system.
Massage with a tennis ball
It is a simple and effective trick to reduce inflammation in the feet and relieve pain. Just place the ball under the plant and start rolling it with your foot back to front.
Take off your shoes when you get home and walk barefoot
Walking barefoot is excellent. And, after a day unemployed, even more. Among the benefits of walking barefoot are those of relaxing and decontracting the foot after spending hours with the rigidity of footwear.
Give a foot massage
A massage is always relaxing, and if it is on the feet after working on your feet for many hours, it is also vital. You can buy many types of creams and essential oils 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 toes, taking time to do it carefully.