We all know that after a hard day of work, it feels great to put your feet up and relax! Whether you are sitting at a desk all day, standing at an assembly line, or non-stop walking stocking shelves, most people have sore feet by the end of their work shift, for different reasons.
When you are on our feet for long periods of time, the balls of your feet, your heels or arches can ache due to the force exerted as you walk, especially if you are not wearing supportive shoes. For those who stand for long periods of time, circulation does not function as well as it does when walking and gravity causes forces to be directed down your spine, through your legs, and into your feet, while fluid drains down and accumulates in your ankles and feet, sometimes causing foot discomfort by the end of the day. Often we recommend using Anti-Fatigue Mats for those who stand for the majority of thier work, to absorb some of the forces endured by the spine, legs and feet while standing.
If you are someone who sits for work, you might wonder why your feet might get sore when your chair is supposed to be doing the work that your legs would do in standing. The fact is gravity is still in effect when you are sitting and fluid will still drain into your lower legs and feet, making them feel swollen and potentially sore by the end of your workday. In addition, people are not generally taking adequate movement breaks in the day to encourage good circulation and to stretch out the calves and feet, that might cramp up while sitting.
Keep in mind, if your feet are not supported on the floor or footrest in sitting, the circulation under your thighs could be compromised, putting you at risk of blood clots and pinched nerves in the legs. If you have raised your chair to access your keyboard and mouse on the desk surface and your feet are dangling or you have them perched on the footing of your chair, then a foot rest is required to support the bottom of your feet in front of you with a 90 degree bend in the knee. If you can fit your hand easily under your thigh when using a foot rest, then the foot rest is too high and the forces of gravity are not distributed well over your seat pan, adding pressure to your low back.
Sometimes diseases that affect the entire body, such as heart disease, kidney or liver failure, can result in excess fluid build up (edema) that is often concentrated in the legs and feet, leading to swelling not only of the ankles but also of the feet and lower legs. This can also occur with obstruction of the venous system, as may occur with pregnacy and obesity. Diseases of the joints, such as arthritis, can also affect the joints of the ankle and foot, leading to swelling of the involved areas. Please check with your physician if you have any of the above symptoms and ensure your feet are supported on the floor or footrest, depending on the height setting of your chair.
Our bodies crave movement, so whether you sit or stand for the majority of your workday, you should include movement breaks with stretching your legs and feet, to improve circulation, get lymph moving and keep you comfortable at work.
Marnie Courage, OT Reg(MB)