Standing on your feet all day, what does it do to your body?

I’ve seen numerous clients who stand all day in their professions: hair stylists, landscapers, even massage therapists (!) and we all share the same problems-usually, from the waist down. Let’s start from the bottom up. Standing can affect our feet of course, perhaps throwing in some plantar fasciitis to make us aware that our feet are tired and need a stretch. Sore feet (check the quality of your shoes) can not only come from issues with your arch, pronation (look at the bottom of your shoe, if it’s worn on the outside edge you pronate) or supination of the foot (if your ankles seem to bend inward, you supinate). I would say in my practice, nine times out of ten, your feet are only an extension of how healthy the muscles in your legs are.

Now with plantar fasciitis, we massage the calf muscles and make sure they are loose. My calves are pretty tight, primarily because I overwork them. From the calves, let’s look at the hamstrings and quads. These are your biggest and usually strongest set of muscles. These help propel you when you walk and/or run. Mine are normally tight and I have to stretch them daily (along with my calves) to keep from tightening up. When they are tight, I’ll get cramps at night or pains in my shin when I run. Stretching, warmups and hydration seem to keep them in line.

Last but not least: the glutes. Mine tend to be weak because of my posture. I’m learning through my personal trainer how to strengthen them while I’m working, running and during my off time. I might do some short stretches between clients or practice certain things while I walk/run. During my off time I certainly pay attention to how I feel, primarily because glute issues (along with hamstring weakness) can contribute to lower back pain. Fortunately, I rarely have lower back pain unless I’ve skipped an important stretch or warmup before my workout. Still, lower back pain certainly is aggravated from long stints of standing. When your body compensates for that pain (or discomfort), you’re going to feel it in your hips and possibly all the way to your upper back, shoulders, neck and head.

Remember, it’s all connected, musculature from the top of your head to the soles of your feet. And we, as miraculous beings, will adjust muscles (sometimes involuntarily) in order to make another part of our body feel better. I have several clients who use stand up desks. These are great and I commend companies for using ergonomically friendly workstations, but I realize that unless you are using these desks correctly, it’s not going to make a huge difference. We need the right tools, yes, but ultimately we have to change our habits or we’ll just repeat our weaknesses. I’m reminded daily about my posture. While in massage school, we learned a series of Tai Chi movements that I use daily as a guide while giving massage. It makes me more aware if I’m leaning over, hunching shoulders or not standing at an adequate height for my table. I’m working to get in a healthier state simply for my career longevity and to live a fuller life when I’m older. I certainly hope you take time to look at your work habits to see how you can improve. Also, take some time to look at your social habits as well. Remember, moderation and balance are key.

There’s a plethora of information out there to guide you. Search online for hamstring (glute or calf) stretches or how to stand with perfect posture. Or ask your favorite massage therapist next time you see her. She/He will be happy to help.