One of the drawbacks of having a job where you must stand or walk around for eight or more hours a day is the leg and foot pain that develops during your shift. Additionally, even standing for just five hours a day can lead to long-term health problems, such as back pain, varicose veins, and musculoskeletal issues. Here are two things you can do to counteract the side effects of being on your feet all day.
Take Frequent Exercise Breaks
A major cause of leg and foot pain caused by standing comes from fluid pooling in the lower limbs. The problem is that blood, water, and other fluids have to fight against gravity to get back to the heart. For a variety of reasons—such as weakened veins—the fluid doesn't quite make it out of the lower limbs and, instead, pools there. The result is swelling and pain.
To help minimize this problem, take frequent breaks to exercise the lower legs. In addition to promoting circulation, stretching and walking around help dispel some of the lactic acid buildup in the calves and thighs, which also contributes to the pain you feel.
A few beneficial stretches you can do are:
- Runners stretch – Push one leg out behind your body and press your heel to the floor as far as you can. You should feel the stretch in your calves and the back of your thighs. Hold for a minute and then switch sides. Repeat 3 times for each leg.
- Calf raises – Stand with your legs slightly apart. Slowly rise up to the balls of your feet, hold for a second, and then slowly return to the start position. Do this about 10 times. For a deeper or more challenging stretch, do this exercise standing on the edge of a stair and lower your heels slightly below the step.
- Ankle circles – Place one leg on a chair and bend just enough until your feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Slowly turn the ankles in circle—first clockwise then counterclockwise—for about 5 turns each. Repeat with the other leg.
- Quad stretch – Using a desk or chair for balance, bend your leg behind you at the knee and grasp your foot in your hand. Hold for about 10 seconds and then switch to the other leg. Repeat 3 times.
There are many other leg stretches you can do that will alleviate some of the pain and swelling caused by standing for long periods of time. Find a few that fit in with your physical abilities and work space.
Wear Compression Socks
Another beneficial thing you can do is wear compression socks. These socks are specially designed to put gentle but constant pressure on the legs to help stimulate circulation and prevent fluids from pooling in the limbs. As noted previously, fluid retention is a major cause of leg pain, so anything that prevents this from occurring will help alleviate pain and swelling. Additionally, compression socks also help increase delivery of oxygen to the legs, which will reduce lactic acid buildup.
There are a number of types of compression socks to meet a variety of needs, so it's best to shop around for some that fits your lifestyle. If you have a problem with sweaty feet, for example, you may want to purchase compression socks made from a cotton blend or promotes airflow to help keep your feet dry. You can also find dress compression socks that can be worn with work or formal wear.
There are a number of other things you can do to minimize leg pain and swelling from standing all day, such as periodically massaging the feet and calves during the day or purchasing an anti-fatigue mat to stand on. For more information about this issue or to find a pair of compression socks for you, check in with your local retailer.