Foot Health for the Office

Dr. Robert Parker
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Dr. Parker is a podiatrist and surgeon in Houston, TX who has been helping patients for more than 40 years.

Foot and nerve issues, such as heel pain, bunions, peripheral neuropathy and nerve compression, are often associated in the public consciousness with seniors and retirees. But that’s not really completely fair.

In fact, there are millions of working-age individuals suffering from painful foot issues that can affect their performance on the job—not to mention make them miserable!

And you don’t have to work primarily on your feet or as a general laborer for foot pain to be a major obstacle, either. Even office workers may struggle to focus, sit comfortably for long periods of time, or even perform fine motor movements reliably with neuropathy or foot pain.

Besides, contrary to popular belief, prolonged sitting isn’t exactly great for your foot health, either. If you aren’t working your feet hard enough, muscles and connective tissues weaken and bone density declines. This increases your risk of a subsequent foot injury.

In serious cases, severe motor, nerve, or pain issues in your lower limbs may prevent you from working entirely.

Fortunately, most causes of foot pain are treatable and reversible, especially if you take care of them early.

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Wear Work-Appropriate Footwear

Your feet need to properly support and protect you while you work, whatever it is you do.

For an office worker, at a bare minimum, that means a comfortable pair of casual or dress shoes with good cushioning, good arch support, and a slightly raised heel (not much more than a quarter of an inch). Please do not wear high heels all day at work!

You may need to make further considerations based on your job site or function. If you work out in the elements, for example, you’ll need to prioritize shoes or boots that can keep the water out, and socks that wick moisture away from your feet.

Fit is critically important, of course. A surprisingly high percentage of people wear shoes that are actually too small for them—either not long enough, not wide enough, or both. Tight shoes can restrict circulation, which is painful and especially dangerous if you already suffer from diabetes or neuropathy. They also lead to discomfort in other ways—for example, by causing blisters or calluses.

Remember, too, that feet don’t stay the same size all day, especially if you work a lot on your feet. They’ll swell up a bit—as much as 5 to 10 percent in some cases! We recommend that you do your shoe shopping in the evening when your feet are already likely to be a little swollen, and always measure your feet (length and width) before selecting a shoe.

Wear Your Orthotics

Orthotics are specialized inserts that you place inside your shoes, in order to give your feet the extra support and cushioning they may not fully be getting, either from the shoes or from the foot structure itself.

It’s important to note that we are not just talking about those off-the-shelf cushioned insoles you can buy at the pharmacy, although those can sometimes help when the right circumstances. Instead, we’re talking about custom orthotics, which are fitted and prescribed by a podiatrist and created at a lab to fit a specific set of feet.

Not everyone requires these special inserts, of course. But at the same time, a lot of painful foot conditions are at least partially caused by structural defects in feet—flat or high arches, misaligned joints, etc.

Orthotics can be extremely effective at resolving those kinds of problems—think of them like a pair of glasses for your feet. Glasses don’t “fix” your eyes from a biological perspective, but by bending the incoming light they allow your imperfect eyes to see clearly while you’re wearing them.

Likewise, orthotics reposition and support your feet while wearing them, which helps them function normally and dissipate weight and pressure more evenly when you stand and walk. If your feet tend to hurt a lot by the end of the day, stop in—we may be able to fit you for a pair that will help.

Modify Your Work Station

Shoes aren’t the only way you can add comfort, support, and cushioning to your workday.

When you stand in one place, virtually all the responsibility for stabilizing your feet falls on the plantar fascia and plantar ligaments. It’s no surprise that this leads to foot pain, and especially heel and arch pain, over time—along with problems like varicose veins and venous stasis. Shifting your weight helps, but only goes so far.

So, you might start looking for ways to modify your space to make it more hospitable to your feet.

If you spend most of their workday in a particular spot—in front of a classroom, on an assembly line, at a cash register, etc.—you might be surprised at how much better you’ll feel standing on a rug or rubber mat instead of the cold, hard floor all day. You might also see if you can place a stool at your station so you can spend part of the day sitting and resting your feet.

On the other hand, if you sit at a desk all day, being able to switch to a standing desk or posture for part of the day can be very beneficial. We don’t recommend you use a standing desk all the time, of course—just that you’re able to switch back and forth as your feet and comfort require.

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Schedule Regular, Short Breaks to Get the Blood Flowing (and the Mind Working) Again

America may have a “tough it out” work culture, but taking regular breaks to sit (if you’ve been standing all day) or stand (if you’ve been sitting all day) and do a little light exercise will make your body and mind feel a lot better—and you’ll probably get more work done in the long run, too.

You might try taking a 5-minute break or so every hour, or even two or three 30-90 second breaks an hour, or whatever works best for you. Even short breaks like these can help you feel a lot better and improve your focus.

During this time, get in some light stretching for your feet and legs—calf raises, calf stretches. When you don’t move these structures often enough, they tend to get stiff and painful. Plus, a little exercise to get the blood flowing again can help you manage the pain associated with conditions like peripheral neuropathy.

If Your Pain Isn’t Getting Any Better, Let Us Help

Hopefully, some combination of the above strategies will help you reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing on the job.

But what if you’re still hurting?

You could just continue to be miserable at work, and be so tired and sore at the end of the day that all you can think about is collapsing on the couch instead of engaging in the active hobbies you used to enjoy.

That’s honestly what most people do. But don’t be one of them!

We’ll get to the bottom of your work-related foot pain, starting with an accurate diagnosis. Whether your primary problem is poor quality shoes, a compressed nerve, multiple etiology heel pain syndrome (MEHPS), arthritis, or any other diagnosis (or combination of diagnoses), we’ll figure it out and then help you put together a treatment plan that will actually get you results.

Dr. Robert Parker, Houston’s high-tech podiatrist, has been serving Houston’s workforce with high quality foot care for more than 45 years. What has that experience taught us? Best practices for foot and ankle care have come a long way in that time, and our entire team must constantly strive to learn, improve, and get better so that we can continue to offer the most advanced care.

Yes, we’ll still be able to provide all the basic, traditional treatment options you can get at any other podiatry clinic—rest, bracing, orthotics, etc. And that may be all you really need.

But for those with pain that doesn’t respond to the basic treatments—or those who just want the fastest possible recovery—we can provide a wide array of regenerative medicine therapies, including:

  • An amniomatrix treatment that repurposes biological material (amniotic fluid and umbilical cord stem cell-derived growth factors) that would normally be discarded after birth as an injectable treatment for rapid healing and pain relief.
  • Extracorporeal pulse activation treatment (EPAT), a treatment that uses pulses of sonic waves to create “microtrauma” in an injured tissue—not enough to cause serious discomfort or noticeable damage, but enough to trigger your body’s natural repair mechanisms to rush in and fix it—along with the original injury.
  • Therapeutic laser treatment, which uses focused light beams to “energize” cellular activity in the injured area to reduce pain, suppress inflammation, and stimulate tissue regeneration. We have a couple of different therapeutic lasers we use and can select one appropriate for your situation.
  • Radiofrequency nerve ablation, a minimally invasive treatment that uses an electrical current to disrupt a small portion of the nerve sheath—basically switching it “off” and preventing it from sending pain signals to the brain.
  • Dellon nerve decompression surgery, which carefully releases a pinched or compressed nerve from an obstruction. Compressed nerves are a very common (and commonly misdiagnosed) cause of foot pain, and Dr. Parker is one of just a few hundred doctors in the country trained in this procedure. (He actually teaches it to other doctors, too.)
  • Don’t let pain ruin your workday, and definitely don’t let foot pain from the job follow you home on the evenings and weekends! Instead, give Parker Foot & Ankle a call at (281) 497-2850 and put your foot pain behind you for good.
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