How common are they?
Workers can develop foot and lower limb problems due to acute injuries from accidents or due to chronic stress on the limbs from the type of work they do. With respect to injuries 1 in 5 workplace injuries involve the feet or lower limbs and 22% of all accidents in the workplace are due to slips, trips and falls. Safe work environments and shoes with proper grip are essential to try and minimise falls in the workplace.
In addition to acute injuries, even greater numbers of workers experience discomfort or pain in the feet and lower limbs, particularly workers who are required to spend prolonged periods standing or walking in their work. Some research has estimated that up to 60% of workers experience discomfort in their feet and lower limbs, depending on their occupation. Nursing, teaching, emergency services, manufacturing, retail and hospitality, building and construction are just some of the occupations that involve prolonged standing and walking.
What do we know about foot problems at work?
FootMotion podiatrists have expertise in this area. Here’s a summary of some of the key things we know about foot and lower limb discomfort and injuries at work.
- You are at greater risk of developing foot and lower limb discomfort If your job requires standing for more than 30-40% of the day. For some workers, standing for as little as 25% of the day can increase the likelihood of low-back pain.
- Discomfort when standing tends to start in the feet and then work its way up to the ankle, knees, hips and back as the day progresses.
- The shape of the foot changes during the day with the forefoot and arch becoming wider- possibly due to swelling or expansion of the foot structure
- As foot discomfort increases, productivity in simple work tasks can be affected- it may be more difficult to concentrate when our feet and legs are painful
- Being overweight can increase the likelihood of foot and lower limb problems, it makes the feet pronate more (‘roll in’) and increases the pressure at different areas under the feet
- Poor circulation, particularly problems with veins, can be a common cause of lower limb discomfort in workers
- Standing on harder surfaces such as concrete floors makes foot discomfort worse, softer surfaces and more cushioning under the feet can help.
In some of Dr Reed’s internationally published research looking at nurses, he found that 55% of the nurses in the study had experienced foot problems during the last 12 months. He also found the foot problems were severe enough to limit the daily activities at work or home for 1 in 6 nurses.
What can I do about my foot and lower limb problems at work?
Dr Reed’s research revealed that nurses were more likely to have foot discomfort or pain at work if they also had underlying foot conditions such as bunions, clawing of toes, flat feet, high arched feet or a history of prior heel pain. In fact, most of the foot problems experienced by nurses could be prevented or managed with a podiatry care plan. We believe this is probably true for other occupations involving prolonged standing and walking.
At Footmotion Podiatry we use our expertise to identify the cause of your foot or lower limb problems. Your podiatry assessment would usually include
- Examination of your feet and legs to determine the cause of the pain or problem
- Assessment of the circulation in your feet
- Footwear assessment
- A biomechanical examination and computerised gait analysis may be required if there is evidence that your foot or lower limb alignment and posture may be contributing to your pain
Once we have diagnosed the cause of your work-related foot or lower limb pain a comprehensive evidence-based care plan will be developed, focused on your needs.
Your FootMotion podiatry care plan may include
- stretching and strengthening exercises
- Strapping of the foot and ankle
- supportive, well-cushioned footwear
- arch supports or prescription orthoses
- prescription of splints or braces
- advice about ways to modify to work tasks
- coordinated care with other health professionals when needed
Don’t put up with foot or lower limb pain at work any longer. Make an appointment at FootMotion Podiatry today and get the help you need.