Your job might require you to stand all day, if you work in engineering, warehousing, retail, catering or hair & beauty. Unfortunately, if you’re not standing with mindfulness, it can take a toll on your back, legs and feet. In 2016, 41% of work-related illnesses was of musculoskeletal disorders. That’s nearly half! A recent report by the NHS revealed that around 1.1 million fit notes related to musculoskeletal disorders made it the second most common reason for issuing a note. Unfortunately, there’s only so much your company can do, such as provide ergonomic workspaces and adequate matting. What can you do to preserve your health and be pain-free while standing at work?
Standing all day can result in pain, discomfort, and fatigue. Knowing how to recognise symptoms as they arise can help you prevent and treat the following in a timely way:
Varicose veins – Low back pain – Muscle soreness and fatigue – Knee or hip arthritis – Bunions – Neck and shoulder stiffness – Knee and foot problems – Swollen and painful legs – Tendonitis – Joint damage – Pregnancy complications – High blood pressure
These can occur because your job is designed to make you stand for long periods of time. Maybe your tasks require you to do repetitive actions while being in a stationary spot. The flooring could be hard and cold. Maybe you stand in front of a screen, or in front of a classroom, and have few breaks.
Standing for long periods of time reduces the blood flow throughout your body, and can cause muscles to stiffen up. When that happens, blood and other fluids don’t circulate properly. Veins get inflamed and your limbs swell. The body does what it does best in that situation, and informs you that something isn’t right, through pain!
The easiest solution to this is to not stay in the same position for too long. Too much of a thing isn’t good for you, may it be sitting or standing, even exercising. Find a balance in what your body requires, and learn to listen to your muscles. We have compiled 5 additional tips, to help you find that balance!
Tip #1: Buy the right shoes for you
‘You are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both’. Don’t cut corners when it comes to selecting the right footwear for you, especially if you spend so much time on your feet. Finding the appropriate footwear for the job while keeping in mind how your feet work is essential, even if it takes a bit more effort!
According to the College of Podiatry, People are likely to buy shoes too small (44%) or too big (24%). They recommend buying shoes in the afternoon, as that is the time of the day your feet are most swollen. Make sure there is 1cm between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. And of course, walk around the shop to check for any pinching or rubbing. It also helps if the shop accepts exchanges or returns, so take advantage of those!
Another factor is to notice whether you have flat feet or high arches. Get the right arch support and shoe inserts for your comfort and relief. Consult an orthotist to find the best orthoses for your feet!
Tip #2: Stretch throughout the day
Stretching is severely underrated as a practice. It isn’t reserved for athletes and gymnasts, and it helps to protect your mobility. Done properly and regularly, it helps keep muscles flexible, strong and healthy. If you stand all day without stretching, chances are your muscles tighten and are weak when you suddenly need to walk. Stretching can help keep your muscles lean, and prevent joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.
It’s not necessary to stretch all day long, especially if you are performing repetitive movements. Blood is already flowing to your muscles. However, it would be beneficial to stretch your lower body, such as calves, hamstrings, hips and quadriceps. This enables a good blood flow in areas that remain stationary throughout the day.
If you are standing but working on a computer, you would need to stretch your lower body as well as upper, including arms, shoulders, lower back and neck. Stretching over time and staying committed to it will help releasing tight muscles (that were probably tightened over months or years!) and improve your overall flexibility.
Tip #3: Check your posture regularly
Weight lifting exercises require proper posture so that lifters don’t injure their bodies. In the same way, standing engages a lot of your body muscles, including your core and legs. Poor posture can result in bad circulation, chronic fatigue, and pain! It’s a vicious cycle that you can break by being mindful of your body throughout the day.
Keep your shoulders back and aligned, lightly squeeze your abs and butt, and slightly bend your knees to ease pressure on the hips. Keep your feet straight on the ground and toes pointing forward. Try not to stick your chest out, but keep your chest perpendicular to the floor. Shift your weight and move around occasionally. The key is to not stay in the same position for too long.
If you’re working on a screen, chances are you’re leaning towards it. Shoulder and neck pain are most common when workspaces are not ergonomic. If you have a standing desk, make sure you can lower or raise it to your elbow’s height, and keep your shoulders back. Avoid putting your weight on your arms, and move your keyboard and mouse around when you notice you are uncomfortable. It helps to switch your weight from left foot to your right, or get a foot rest to elevate your foot. Bars have a foot rest for a reason!
The best way we’ve found to relax your muscles and get into a comfortable posture is to exhale fully and let your muscles fall while slightly flexing your core. Breathing is key, it helps prevent the accumulation of stress in your body. But that’s a whole different blog post.
Tip #4: Take regular sitting and walking breaks
If you’re standing in a single spot most of the time, try to walk for 5 minutes every hour. This could be taking the long route to the washroom or getting yourself a glass of water. If possible, make that meeting active by turning it into a walking one.
Make it a habit to sit down during lunch time. Keep a chair handy near your workstation to relieve the pressure on your body. Ensure you have a back rest and lean back 100-120 degrees to avoid putting pressure on your spine. Remember, sitting at 90 degrees is not recommended, contrary to popular belief.
Tip #5: Take good care of yourself at home
A good care routine is necessary if you rely on your feet all day. Make sure you relax your entire body in your time-off. Going for a jog or a walk regularly in your free time can help relax your body and get the blood flowing. Keeping your body warm at home is a good start, avoid bare feet on cold floors!
Indulge in hot foot soaks occasionally. Dry your feet well (specially between your toes) to avoid fungal infections and trim your toenails straight across to prevent ingrown nails. Cultivate these habits into your routine depending on your daily grind. Caring for your feet pays off when done conscientiously.
Going back to tip #1, ‘you are either in your bed or in your shoes, so it pays to invest in both’. Make sure your mattress is firm and provides support to your spine. If you sleep on your side, add a pillow between your legs. And if you’re a back-sleeper, add one under your knees. Throwback to tip #2, stretch before bed to relax tense muscles!
If you’re experiencing pain regularly, do not dismiss the symptoms. Knocking on the pipes from the outside may be a short-term solution. However, cultivating a deep care for your body will benefit you long-term. The tips we offer are preventive, however if years of standing have made standing painful, you might require professional advice tailored to you, or therapy.
Matting Direct2U is a matting specialist, offering industrial-grade flooring solutions to cope with the grind of daily life. Anti-fatigue mats are our speciality, and we’d love to help you decide the best one for you! Live chat with us for more information.
- Do you work on your feet all day? – BioPed
- One in three fit notes linked mental health conditions – Health & Safety at Work
- Feet Facts – The College of Podiatry
- The importance of stretching – Harvard Health Publications
- 15 tips for standup workstation users – Mark’s Daily Apple
- 10 tips on foot care – NHS
- The ultimate guide to good posture – Greatist
- Vectors adapted from Freepik Design