If you have a job where you have to stand all day, it’s no wonder you have swollen, aching feet to contend with. But why do your feet swell and is there anything you can do about it?
In order to assess the type of treatment you require, your doctor will need to determine what is causing your discomfort. Identifying the type of pain might help your doctor figure out what’s going on.
In the meantime, read on for some possible causes of foot and leg pain and how you might find relief at home.
Foot Problems: Understanding Swollen Feet And Legs
Dealing with sore feet, knee discomfort, and leg pain isn’t uncommon after long periods of standing. This is most often for two main reasons:
First, when you stand, your legs are under non-stop pressure and strain. Muscles in your legs must constantly be switched on to help you to keep balance. Not surprisingly, this tires your leg muscles, your knees, and your feet out. The fat pads on your feet may also become sore after absorbing all that weight for long periods.
Ever wondered why walking never feels as bad as standing? Well, when you’re walking, more muscle groups engage. The strain of keeping you upright is spread across many muscles.
Second, swelling might occur because of the reduced blood flow to muscles from standing for long periods. You see, the body relies on movement from the legs to pump blood back towards the heart. And, other fluids also won’t move unless the leg muscles contract.
Additionally, when we are standing, the effects of gravity are the strongest. This causes the normal fluid in our body, such as blood and water, to accumulate in our legs. The longer you stand, the more fluid can accumulate. This swelling may build in the feet, ankles, and legs. It’s medically referred to as edema.1,2
To try and prevent this, move your legs periodically by doing a quick squat or going for a walk. At the end of the day, raise your legs onto a foot stool or pillow, to allow the fluid to redistribute throughout your body. Compression socks or stockings might also help push the fluid back to your upper body.
Standing On Swollen Feet: Supportive Shoes And Active Standing
Swollen feet can also be caused, or made worse, by wearing the wrong kind of shoes. Your muscles are already working over time, so shoes that don’t support these muscles aren’t ideal. And if your feet aren’t supported, every muscle and joint on the way back up your body – your knees, your hips, and your back – also aren’t supported.
Standing around all day in flip-flops, strappy sandals, or high heels (which all force pressure onto your toes and away from your heels) is the wrong way to support your feet.
When looking for supportive shoes, the arch of your foot will play a big role. For example, if you have flat feet, you need a shoe that supports your collapsed arch while standing.3
The most supportive shoes are often flat, closed-in shoes with good arch support – like running shoes or boots. The shoes should not slip off easily, and should follow the natural movements of your walk. If you are forced to alter the way you walk as a result of the shoes, they most likely are not conducive to long-term use (example: high heels or flip flops). However, some jobs may not allow these types of footwear, so you might want to consider custom-made orthotics that slip into your work shoes. Just keep in mind that you may need to go up a shoe size to fit these inner soles.
You can also ask your doctor for recommendations on a supportive shoe. They may have suggestions based on their examination of your foot and type of discomfort.
Do you stand for long periods of time? You may try incorporating something called active standing to help ease swollen feet. There are several things you can do to get your muscles moving.
Set a timer for periods where you can go walking for just a few minutes. You can incorporate it into your job, and it won’t even be obvious. Just make a conscious decision every hour to move about the space you’re in.
As your mother would say, “Stand up straight.” Poor posture (i.e. posture that’s out of alignment) can put more pressure on your muscles and joints.
If you’re literally standing in one place – perhaps behind a counter – you can also buy an anti-fatigue shock absorption foot mat. The best kind is one that cushions your feet and forces your muscles to make subtle movements to balance you.
These are usually thicker and springier mats.4 Also perform periodic leg raises and/or squats to help keep blood moving from your legs toward your upper body.
If you must stand for your job, then a good pair of shoes combined with active standing can go a long way in helping your legs and feet.
Possible Ways To Relieve Foot And Leg Discomfort At Home
Here are some possible ways to try and find relief at home.
1. Stretching Exercises
Stretching is a great idea for sore, stiff feet. Loosening up the muscles of the feet can help the foot to relax. Here are three easy stretches that you can do anywhere.
The Toe Circuit: Flex your toes, point your toes, curl your toes. Repeat ten times.
Feet Lifts: While standing, gently shift your weight from your heels to your toes so that each comes off the ground a little. Repeat ten times.
Toe Spread: While standing, lift your toes then spread them as far apart as possible. Hold for a few seconds. Place them back on the ground, then press the ball of your big toe into the ground. Hold. Repeat this sequence ten times.
2. Foot Soaks
It sounds simple, but a warm foot bath can greatly relieve tired, sore feet. This is made even better if you add in some Epsom salts, which are high in magnesium and known for their ability to relieve sore muscles. Soak your feet for about 20 minutes.
Finish your foot soak by applying a nice, thick foot cream and pop on some socks to help lock in the moisture.
3. Foot Massages
Whether you do it yourself, ask your partner, or go for a professional foot rub, a foot massage is a little piece of heaven that may help to relieve sore feet. For an easy DIY option after a hard day on your feet, here’s a quick routine.
Start with kneading the bottoms of your feet – the arch, the footpad, and the heel. Then massage each toe. Ideally, you’ll want to use some lotion or oil. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil for an even more relaxing experience. You can also purchase a foot roller device to better help you massage yourself.
4. Chill Your Feet
Ice is known for calming the irritation and swelling of an injury. Icing swollen, uncomfortable feet may be helpful. Here’s an easy way to do it: Keep a can of juice in your freezer. When you come home after a long day, roll your foot across the can for some instant relief.
Foot Problems: Know When To See Your Doctor Or Podiatrist
Sometimes foot problems like discomfort or swelling can mean something more than just “sore feet.” If your feet are causing you consistent pain, if you have nerve pain, or if swelling becomes a daily event, you should definitely talk to your doctor or podiatrist.
Actual foot injuries require professional help. Swelling of the legs can be linked to several dangerous conditions. Give yourself peace of mind, and talk to a professional. They’ll also be a great source of advice for stretching exercises and how to best improve your work situation with optimal foot support.
It is important to periodically check your feet for small cuts or scraps, even between the toes. As we get older, and with some conditions such as diabetes, we gradually lose sensation in our feet. As we lose the sensation, we become less aware of cuts, which may become infected. Also, keep your toenails trimmed and clean, to help fight off infections. Maintaining proper foot hygiene can go a long way in the battle that is your overall health.
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