Thursday, September 20, 2012

Your Feet at Work

     After a shift of walking and standing—whether it be cutting hair, delivering mail, or teaching students—workers have some tired dogs, and maybe some foot problems too. The American Podiatric Medical Association says that 47% of Americans suffer from a foot ailment, but only slightly more than a quarter of them see a podiatrist. If your job requires a lot of standing and walking, here’s the low-down on foot care.

     According to Todd Harrison, DPM, of Podiatry Associates of Hagerstown, foot pain, specifically plantar fasciitis, is common among people whose jobs require them to stand and walk a lot. With plantar fasciitis, the thick band of tissue at the bottom of foot becomes inflamed, causing a stabbing heel pain.

     What about pain in the ball of your foot? Your problem could be metatarsalgia or Morton’s neuroma. Tarsal Tunnel syndrome, the foot’s version of Carpal Tunnel syndrome, involves a pinched nerve that creates pressure around the ligament and a tingling sensation or numbness in the foot. Treatment for all of these overuse conditions can include rest, ice, anti-inflammatory medication, elevation, splinting, and corrective insoles.

     Genetics and foot structure also play a role in foot conditions such as bunions and hammertoe. A bunion is a bony bump at the base of your big toe forming a misalignment of the toe joint. A hammertoe can rub against the top of your shoe due to a bend in the middle joint of the toe. These conditions sometimes become surgical due to pain, says Dr. Harrison.

     There’s also a DIY method to check whether you have flat feet or a high arch. Simply step out of the shower (onto a piece of paper) or out of the pool (onto concrete) for a snapshot of your foot. If you see the toes, ball, and heel, you have a high arch that doesn’t give you much shock absorption. An entire imprint of your insole means you have flat feet, which can lead to arthritis if your foot is not properly supported.

     Following proper foot care can preserve your feet says Dr. Harrison. Here are some easy tips to keep you standing and moving.

  • Buy shoes with a low heel, not a flat sole (like fashionable ballerina slippers). Avoid slip-ons, as they require your toes to curl to keep them in place. Shoes, says Dr. Harrison, don’t necessarily cause foot problems, but they can aggravate them. 
  • Look for shoes with laces and Velcro straps that allow the shoe to be readjusted when your feet are swollen. 
  • Find shoes with a good arch support. 
  • Buy shoes at the end of day when your feet are swollen and larger. 
  • Use off-the-shelf insoles for moderate foot problems, but if your foot problem persists, see a podiatrist for a custom-fit orthotic. 
  • If you do a lot of walking (nurses and mail people), discard shoes after six months to one year of wear. Like your car tires, look for a worn tread on the sole of the shoe. 

Foot Care
  • Elevate your feet at the end of a day. Swelling is normal if you have been standing on your feet all day. But if your swelling is moderate to severe, it could be a sign of vascular problems and requires a doctor’s visit. 
  • Alternate your shoes. This will help them thoroughly dry out from daily foot perspiration. 
  • Spray your shoes with Lysol to keep them fresh and free of odor and mildew. 
  • Buy padded, moisture-wicking socks made from a synthetic blend like polypropylene. Sweaty feet can lead to nail fungus, blisters, and athlete’s foot. 
  • Soak your feet in warm water. It cleans your feet and calms you! 

     Resting and checking your feet should be a regular part of your nighttime routine. If you have foot pain lasting more than a few days, or you are modifying your lifestyle based on the pain, see a podiatrist. Remember, your feet are the foundation of your body.

By: Anne Gill

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