Standing is a natural posture for an individual. Standing makes one feel energetic and active and aids one in moving. Many persons the world over have to stand for long hours, continuously, for their work. These include traffic police men, teachers, surgeons, labourers and etcetera. Inadvertently, these people are exposed to some health hazards.
On standing, entire weight of the body is borne by the backbone, knees, and muscles of the backbone, legs and feet. When one stands for long hours continuously, overtime, they can develop backache, stiffness and or pain in knees and legs. People are known to develop osteoarthritis of hips, knees and spondylosis of the back, prematurely in the prime of their lives, due to prolonged standing. Feet also tend to become sore and there may be muscle cramps in calf muscles. Feet tend to become swollen as well. At times, muscles of shoulders and upper back also feel stiff and sore. Muscle fatigue sets in, contributing to pain and stiffness. It may also induce early fatigue where the affected person starts feeling very tired early during their work. The severity and periodicity of the pain depends on the duration of standing continuously, age of a person (risk increases with advancing age), weight (obese people can have more problems), nutrition, use of alcohol/tobacco and overall health of a person.
When one stands for long hours, veins of the legs are also subjected to weight of the body, along with the musculoskeletal system. This leads to their dilatation and weakening of valves. When veins become varicose, the legs and or feet look ungraceful. One suffers from feeling of heaviness/stiffness, over the affected part. The return of impure blood from the legs to the right side of heart is also affected due to varicose veins, causing giddiness on standing in some people. Some individuals can also have giddiness when standing for a long time, even without varicose veins, especially when standing under the hot sun.
These problems are augmented due to a bad choice of foot wear. Shoes worn for work should be comfortable for the feet, be of proper fitting and protect feet adequately. High heeled shoes should be avoided by individuals whose work involves prolonged standing. Such shoes tend to put the musculoskeletal system of back and legs to strain and can induce chronic backache and leg ache
It is important to have a balanced diet, which provides enough vitamins B complex, E, D3, calcium and necessary minerals, to keep the musculoskeletal system healthy. Alcohol and tobacco should be avoided, as they tend to damage the muscles and contribute to muscular pain.
Those suffering from giddiness due to standing should move their toes while standing to help in adequate return of blood to the heart, as muscle contractions, press on the veins and help in movement of blood.
Persons standing under the hot sun for their work should use protective gear like caps and sunglasses and drink adequate amounts of water/energy drinks, and etcetera. Otherwise they are prone to develop dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.
If possible, a person should have sitting breaks for 30 minutes in between work involving standing for more than two hours or so. While sitting, preferably, legs should be spread in front for some time. This tends to ease weight being put on back, hips, knees and legs.
Many people are ignorant about the health hazards posed by prolonged standing, hence they suffer. It is not only the middle-aged and elderly, but even young individuals, who can have these health problems. Therefore, it is important for workers whose labour involves standing for long hours to be aware of these problems. They should take due precaution to avoid it.
With International Labour Day approaching, awareness needs to be spread about the health hazards of prolonged standing so that persons do not suffer due to work-related problems.
Dr Rachna Pande,
Specialist, internal medicine