Many people, especially those in manufacturing and the service sector, must stand for long periods of time as part of their job, and there are many studies examining the health effects due to prolonged standing. Common complications include low back pain, varicose veins (enlarged and painful veins just below the surface of the skin), nighttime leg cramps and chronic circulation problems.
While you may not be able to change the nature of your work, there are steps that you can take that may lessen the negative effects of prolonged standing on your body.
1. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes with a low heel
Shoes that are too narrow, have a high heel or constrict the toes can cause circulation problems in the feet that can lead to cramping, tingling and numbness. High heels can also prematurely fatigue the ankles and muscles in the legs.
2. Wear support hose or socks
Special socks and hose provide the right amount of compression to aid in circulation and lessen muscle fatigue. Think back to the summer Olympics: many of the athletes were sporting colorful compressions socks and sleeves. While these are certainly a fashion statement, they also served a purpose by aiding in performance.
3. Wear a lumbar support belt and strengthen your abs
Strong abdominal muscles aid in posture and provide support for your entire body. A lumbar support belt will also help when muscles begin to fatigue. If you don’t have access to a support belt, you can help avoid back pain by making sure you stand, sit, squat and lift in ways that protect your back.
4. Maintain good posture
As you fatigue, it is very easy to let the lower back arch, your shoulders slump and allow your body to sag on your pelvis. This puts even more stress on your muscles and joints.
Practice good standing posture:
- Keep your feet about hips’ width apart and your weight evenly distributed on them.
- Avoid putting your weight into your heels.
- Keep your abdominals engaged and stand tall with your shoulders upright.
- Tuck your chin slightly to avoid a forward head posture.
5. Move around to aid in circulation
If you are confined to a small space, such as a cashier’s booth, try shifting your weight from leg to leg at least every 20 minutes.
6. Stay well hydrated
Dehydration leads to fatigue, so try to keep a water bottle close by.
7. Ergonomic aids
There are many ergonomic aids that are designed to help workers who must stand for long periods of time. Specially cushioned mats and stools for propping up your feet can help tremendously.
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About the author
This content has been written or reviewed by a member of the Baylor Scott & White Health medical staff.