Not every employee has a desk job. As COVID-19 restrictions life, and more of us are able to get back to work. Hairdressers, barbers, physical therapists, construction workers, teachers, lumber workers, athletes, teachers, dancers, textile workers and health care workers are just a few examples of professions which require a lot of walking, standing, lifting and bending. Back pain, arthritis and bursitis are some of the medical issues that these professionals face. Salonpas interviewed acclaimed medical doctors, physical therapist and wellness professionals about the unique pain problems and solutions for people who are on their feet and on the go all day or night.
“Although there are many orthopedic issues that active professionals may have, the most predominant ones are knee pain, shoulder pain and wrist pain,” says Dr. Jonathan Oheb, Chief of Orthopedic Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery at the North Valley Orthopedic Institute. “My patients who are employed in professions that require excessive standing, walking, kneeling or overhead work often find themselves with these issues.”
Stephanie Scuoppo, a celebrity hair stylist at the Oscar Blandi Salon, feels pain when she is “standing in one spot in a slightly hunched position,” and gets “tightness” between her shoulders with neck stiffness. “Flexible flats are must for me as I’m on my feet for up to 12 hours daily.”
Does footwear make a difference in reducing pain? Salonpas turned to Katy Bowman, best-selling author, biomechanist, alignment specialist and director of the Restorative Exercise Institute for insight as she has helped thousands reduce chronic pain, increase bone density and improve metabolic health through movement. “Professionals who are on the feet all day must wear flats,” says Katy Bowman, who also authors KatySays.com, an award-winning blog. “Wear a soft, flexible shoe with a wider toe area that does not pinch standing toes all day.”
Dr. Oheb’s opinion differs from Bowman. “Although flat sole shoes may be the most comfortable shoes to wear around the house, these are not the best shoes for individuals who are on their feet all day,” says Dr. Oheb. “Shoes should be worn with a ¼ inch elevation and mild arch support to prevent excessive pressure on the foot as well as to avoid plantar fasciitis, a common cause of heel pain. Make sure to wear appropriate sized shows and diabetic people should wear footwear with a wide toe box to prevent excessive pressure on the toes.”
Repetitive strain injury (RSI) applies to the pain felt in muscles, nerves and tendons caused by repetitive movement and overuse. How can RSI be prevented with active professionals? “Proper workplace ergonomics is the key to preventing workplace repetitive strain injuries,” said Dr. Oheb. “Minimize repetitive movements during your job as much as possible. Maintain appropriate posture when sitting or standing. Prevent excessive flexion or extension, especially for prolonged periods of time, in your joints. Preventative exercises include daily stretching and core strengthening exercises for your abdominals and lower back muscles.”
“Select away-from-work activities that don’t use your body in the same way,” advises Bowman. “There are also many corrective exercises for your overworked parts like fingers, hands, neck and shoulders.” The National Education Association provides tips and techniques on preventing RSI related injuries in their free online booklet.
“Plantar fasciitis is a common complaint made by people who stand on their feet for long hours,” says Dr. Oheb. “Men and women are affected equally. Risk factors include people who are overweight or obese, individuals with tight calf muscles and who engage in activities that place repetitive stress on the heel such as running or jumping.”
While excess body weight plays a role with controlling pain management, Bowman also points to “poor standing alignment or standing in heels which messes with body alignment.” “How the weight is carried matters less than the way you carry it,” says Bowman.
Scheduling regular breaks is also recommended. “From a psychological standpoint, taking breaks at work improves focus, attentiveness and information retention allowing for improved productivity,” says Dr. Oheb. “Furthermore, it is good to stretch several times a day especially if you are in a job that requires prolonged sitting. Active breaks such as taking a walk or a job can improve blood flow to the brain further improving workplace productivity.” “Breaks are a break-up of a repetitive pattern,” says Bowman. “To be most beneficial, a break should include some self-care such as a light massage, stretching, fresh-air, taking a seat, etc.”
Exercise can play a vital role in reducing pain for the active professional. “Cardiovascular exercise at least 3-4 times a week can significantly improve energy throughout the week,” says Dr. Oheb. “Daily stretching to include the Achilles, hamstrings and quadriceps muscles is also recommended as well as core strengthening exercises that provide abdominal and lower back strengthening which can improve posture, decrease pain and prevent workplace injury.”
Turning to OTC drugs to reduce pain is also an option. “People should always consult their physician before initiating a course of medication,” says Dr. Oheb.
“Ibuprofen, naproxen and even aspirin can cause stomach upset, and even ulcers, in a worst case, when not administered at the right dosages,” says Dr. Aristotle Economou. “Topical pain relievers such as creams, gels, patches and sprays work locally and largely reduce, although they do not entirely eliminate the systemic risk – accidental or otherwise – that OTC pain pills can present. There are a variety of non-invasive techniques, procedures, specific acu-points and philosophies surrounding pain relief worldwide. With a topical, you can deliver much less medicine to the body because you’re applying it directly at the site of pain. The Salonpas® Pain Relieving Patch is the first topical non-steroidal anti-inflammatories approved through the FDA’s rigorous New Drug Application process which is the same process used to approve prescription medicines.”