Spending All Day On Your Feet

Chronic lower-limb muscle fatigue has long-term consequences. As we all know desk jobs aren't good for your posture or your health but working on your feet can spell trouble too.

Standing for five hours a day contributes to significant and prolonged lower-limb muscle fatigue. This can raise your risk for long-term back pain and musculoskeletal disorders. This isn't good news for the millions of supermarket staff, retail assistants, hotel and restaurant workers and thousands of others who earn their living spending all day on their feet. A recent study’s author also pointed out that a staggering half of all workers worldwide spend more than three-quarters of their workday standing.

Two hours a day of standing on the job is not associated with problems, but "a longer period is likely to have detrimental effects," said study lead author Maria-Gabriela Garcia, a doctoral candidate within the department of health sciences and technology at ETH Zurich in Switzerland. The findings were published online recently in the journal Human Factors.

Standing for long periods is already associated with a higher risk for short-term problems, such as lower leg cramps, foot and heel pain, sore knees and backaches but the current study set out to see whether prolonged standing also raised the risk for developing longer-term issues.

The investigators focused on 14 men and 12 women. Half were between 18 and 30 years old, and half between 50 and 65. None had a history of any neurological or musculoskeletal disorder, and all were asked to refrain from high-level exertion the day before study participation. Replicating a shift at a manufacturing plant, all were asked to simulate light tasks while standing at a workbench for five hours with five-minute rest breaks and one half-hour lunch break.

Unfortunately, in many minimum wage jobs, even in this day and age, these minimum requirements for breaks are not even met, especially in the hospitality industry which employs a huge number of young people, meaning that the risk for developing long-term problems is even greater.

Posture stability and leg muscle stress (quantified as ‘muscle twitch force’) were monitored throughout, and participants were asked to report on discomfort. The results were that regardless of age or gender, participants were equally likely to experience significant fatigue at the end of the work day. What's more, clear signs of muscle fatigue were observed for more than a half-hour after the standing period ended, regardless of whether the participants actually felt the strain.

Many people in New Zealand spend a lot longer than five hours a day on their feet at work, many carrying heavy loads while they do so. Without monitored and enforced rest and meal breaks and shorter shifts they run the risk of developing foot, ankle, heel and lower leg problems over the span of their working careers as well as chronic lower back pain.

Regular massage can go a long to relieve these symptoms for people who spend all day standing and walking on concrete floors without the opportunity to sit down other than on assigned rest breaks. Trigger points build up over time leaving workers’ movement restricted and in chronic pain. Massage can release these areas of built up tension and positively affect your range of motion and posture.

Living with constant leg pain is no laughing matter and a massage, even once a month, can go a long way to improving your quality of life. Give someone you care about the gift of massage this Christmas. They will love you for it. All the way down to the tips of their toes.


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