Spending a substantial part of the day on the feet can lead to a number of long-term musculoskeletal disorders that begin with the lower limbs.
A significant number of health problems such as muscle fatigue, back pain and swelling in the legs result from prolonged periods of standing; individuals involved in such professions as retail assistants and waitresses are at a risk of developing postural problems without proper support for the feet.
Standing for extensive periods especially on hard floor surfaces made of concrete, tile or wood causes excessive pressure to be placed not only on the feet, but on the rest of the body as well.
This strain initially manifests itself in the form of foot pain and leg cramps, gradually travelling further up the kinetic chain affecting the shins, knees, hips and lower back.
In a study conducted by Garcia et al. on the long-term effects of standing for long hours at work, 26 adults simulated light tasks while standing for five hours at a workbench created specifically for the experiment.
The muscle twitch force was monitored throughout the study to quantify postural stability and leg muscle stress.
It was observed that muscle fatigue did not develop until after the first two hours of standing; after five hours of standing with regular breaks of five minutes and a half-an-hour lunch break, muscle fatigue was found to be at its highest.
However, even though this fatigue was present, it was no longer perceived after 30 minutes of rest, post work.
Based on the established results, the authors concluded that occupational activities which require extended periods of standing are likely to contribute to lower extremity and back disorders in the long-term.
The feet need to be rested well enough during the day to ensure they are not being overused; it is also highly important to wear comfortable and supportive shoes that do not add any extra strain on the feet.
As a preventative measure, supportive foot devices can be used in conjunction with comfortable footwear; these will support the foot and the whole body in its correct postural form throughout the day whilst providing the corrective force required to treat any underlying biomechanical problems that could increase the risk of developing foot conditions.
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