What do grocery store cashiers, nurses, hairdressers, security guards, and welders have in common? Even though people in these occupations have vastly different job duties, they all spend the majority of their workday standing.
Over time, standing can lead to muscle fatigue, discomfort, and soreness in the legs, lower back, and feet. Standing can also lead to common podiatric concerns such as plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, bunions, metatarsalgia, and stress fractures.
At Northwest Extremity Specialists, our goal is to help Portland residents care for their feet so they’re able to make the most of each day. Our board-certified physicians with advanced training provide comprehensive care in 15 state-of-the-art facilities located throughout the Portland metropolitan area. If your job is causing persistent foot and ankle pain, we’re here to help.
Prolonged periods of standing can potentially lead to a condition known as plantar fasciitis. This occurs when the plantar fascia, a band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot, becomes inflamed and sore. Plantar fasciitis often develops gradually over time and can be exacerbated by excessive standing, poor footwear choices, and certain foot mechanics such as flat feet or high arches.
Plantar fasciitis is characterized by inflammation and irritation of the plantar fascia, leading to discomfort and pain during activities that involve weight-bearing. Common symptoms of plantar fasciitis include sharp or stabbing pain in the heel, pain that is usually more intense in the morning or after periods of rest, and pain that eases with movement but returns after prolonged activity.
Standing for extended periods can lead to Achilles tendinitis, characterized by inflammation of the Achilles tendon—the large tendon at the back of the ankle that facilitates movement. This vital tendon is crucial in enabling activities like walking, running, and jumping.
The hallmark symptoms of Achilles tendinitis include pain, tenderness, and swelling in the back of the heel. This discomfort is usually most pronounced after periods of rest or in the morning. Swelling might also accompany the discomfort, leading to a visible increase in the size of the affected area. The Achilles tendon itself might feel tender to the touch, and the skin over the region could appear red or warm.
Extended periods of standing can exacerbate the formation and discomfort of bunions—a condition marked by a bony protrusion near the base of the big toe. Bunions can also be caused by a combination of genetic predisposition, improper footwear, and structural issues in the foot. High-heeled shoes and shoes with narrow toe boxes can exacerbate the condition by placing excessive pressure on the joint and forcing the toes into an unnatural position.
The symptoms of bunions often include pain, tenderness, redness, and swelling around the base of the big toe joint. As the condition progresses, the bony bump becomes more prominent and the angle of deviation of the big toe increases. The affected area may also become more prone to corns and calluses due to friction from footwear.
Metatarsalgia manifests as pain in the ball of the foot, just behind the toes. Metatarsalgia can stem from a variety of factors, including biomechanical issues like high arches or flat feet, wearing shoes that lack adequate cushioning or have a narrow toe box, and engaging in high-impact activities that place undue strain on the metatarsals. Aging and weight fluctuations can also contribute to the gradual thinning of the fat pad that naturally cushions the ball of the foot, exacerbating discomfort.
Metatarsalgia pain can vary in intensity, ranging from a mild ache to sharp, shooting pains or a burning sensation. Activities that involve standing, walking, running, or even just putting weight on the affected foot can exacerbate the discomfort. The pain might be localized to a specific metatarsal bone or spread across multiple toes. Some individuals also describe a feeling of having a pebble or foreign object in their shoe due to the persistent discomfort associated with the condition.
While stress fractures in the feet and ankles are often associated with high-impact activities like running or jumping, they can also occur in situations where there is repetitive stress on a specific bone, such as during prolonged standing. Your body weight is transferred through your bones and joints when you stand. This weight-bearing load can cause microdamage to the bone tissue, especially if the load is not distributed evenly or if there isn't sufficient time for the bones to recover between periods of stress.
Common symptoms of a stress fracture include localized pain at the site of the fracture, which is usually worsened by weight-bearing activities such as walking or running. The pain often starts as a mild ache during activity and can progress to become more intense as the fracture advances. Swelling, tenderness, and even bruising can develop around the affected area. In some cases, there may be a noticeable decrease in performance during physical activities due to the discomfort. If left untreated, stress fractures can worsen, leading to more severe pain and even a complete fracture.
Keep Your Feet in Top Condition With the Help of Our Portland Podiatrists
If you’re dealing with foot pain you suspect is being aggravated by long hours standing at work, our podiatrists can provide a diagnosis and help you determine the best course of treatment. We can also offer advice on how to prevent future problems with your feet. For example:
- Invest in good shoes. It's important to wear shoes with arch support and soft soles.
- Take frequent breaks. Remember to sit down and rest your feet sometimes.
- Use anti-fatigue mats at your workstation. If you can, stand on soft mats.
- Pay attention to your posture. Stand up straight and put your weight evenly on both feet.
- Make time for stretching and strengthening exercises. Do exercises that make your foot and leg muscles stronger to reduce your risk of getting injured at work.