33% of nurses in America suffer from chronic foot and back pain. If that wasn’t bad enough, healthcare workers injure their backs 450% more often than any other kind of worker. Most of these back injuries happen while moving patients, but the feet and legs often swell after a long day of standing. These injuries can get to the point that they end careers, and they contribute greatly to the worldwide nursing shortage.
If you’re one of the 33%, whether you’re a nurse or another worker who is on their feet all day, here are some ways you can make that pain go away, and avoid other problems in the future.
Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your body, period. It helps keep your weight under control, reduces your risk of disease, makes you happier, makes you smarter, boosts your energy, reduces stress and it helps you sleep better. It has even more benefits for people who spend their days standing. Since nurses are on their feet so much, the muscles in their legs, backs and cores get fatigued. Once fatigued, muscles do not properly support the body, leading to pain and poor posture. Exercise treats that pain by strengthening the muscles, allowing them to endure more before wearing out.
2: Get Better Shoes
Your feet are an essential part of your work as a nurse, so proper shoes are important. When we say “proper,” we’re referring to shoes that accommodate both your foot’s natural shape and amount of time you spend on your feet during the day. Feet are shaped the way they are because that shape most efficiently distributes the body’s weight across them. When a pair of shoes does not accommodate your foot’s natural shape, your legs, knees, and hips become misaligned.
It’s difficult to give a shoe recommendation that accommodates everybody, and online forums are often no more helpful—some swear by one type of shoe, others denounce it and swear by another. In the end, there is no right shoe. There is only the right shoe for you. Your perfect shoe depends on your height, weight, arch, lifestyle, and more. The only way to learn which pair is right for you is to do research, try some on, work with someone at a shoe store and see which ones feel best.
Two of the most popular brands are Dansko and Crocs, and they tend to be expensive—around $150 dollars. If you’re shocked at the price tag, consider that good shoes are an investment towards your quality of life and your future as a nurse.
3: Fix Your Posture
Bad posture can either be the cause of your pain or an accessory to it. Either way, bad posture isn’t good for anyone—least of all nurses. When you have bad posture, extra pressure gets put onto certain muscles; other ones get neglected entirely. Eventually, the overused muscles tire out and stretch, while the underused ones weaken and shrink.
Bad posture also puts excess pressure on your spine, which is a leading cause of both lower back and neck pain.
We should note that proper posture doesn’t just apply to standing still, but also when sitting down or lifting something. If you bend at your back (instead of your hips) or lift with your back (instead of your legs), then you put a tremendous amount of pressure on your spine that would otherwise be distributed across stronger, more capable body parts. Correcting your posture will ensure that all of your muscles work together perfectly to support your body. Some studies have even shown that improving your posture makes you happier!
This article goes in depth about the types of posture problems, what muscles each over- and under-utilizes and what stretches you can do to fix them.
4: Stretch Daily
Nurses should consider stretching before and/or after a long day. Stretching before work energizes you, gets you ready for the day, and helps you move better. Stretching after work helps relieve your sore muscles and helps those muscles perform better the next day.
There are countless benefits to stretching both as a nurse and as a human. Stretching reduces stress, increases blood flow to the brain, and even lowers blood sugar. Just head to Google and search “stretches for nurses.” You’ll find dozens of articles that have good stretches, so you can pick the ones that are best for you. This article is our favorite.
5: Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are best for a particular kind of pain: the kind associated with bad circulation. The veins in your legs work harder than anywhere else in the body to get blood back to your heart. That’s because the legs are the only place in the body where veins have to compete directly with gravity to pump blood. Sometimes, gravity wins. When that happens, legs become pained and swollen as blood pools in them.
Compression stockings effectively combat this fluid buildup. They squeeze the legs, which compresses the veins and make it easier for them to transport blood to the heart. This reduces pain significantly and has the added effect of lowering your risk of developing varicose veins in the future.
Cutieful Can Help You Live Pain-Free
Cutieful understands that a nurse’s job both is both challenging and rewarding. That’s why we design all our products with your comfort in mind. If you’re ready to continue your nursing career and maintain or go back to a pain-free workday, check out some of Cutieful’s therapeutic compression socks.