Oh, my aching feet! When nurses don’t say that at the end of a shift, they may still be thinking it. Sometimes the pain starts just a couple of hours in.
And it's not just whining. According to a 2014 study cited by the National Institutes of Health, nurses are at high risk for all musculoskeletal disorders. Foot and ankle MSDs were so common among pediatric hospital nurses that they'd caused physical activity limitations in one of six nurses studied.
But foot pain doesn't have to come with the territory. There are steps nurses can take to prevent pain and extend their days at this rewarding career.
Here are five ways to take good care of your feet while you’re taking great care of your patients:
1. Banish blisters. When you experience friction against your foot, the outer layer of your skin separates and fills with fluid. Usually, you can prevent blisters by wearing shoes that fit and socks that wick moisture, according to the American Podiatric Medical Association.
The APMA also offers a list of approved foot powders or creams that can limit friction on your heels and toes.
2. Fight the impulse to "ride it out." If you're new to nursing or recently switched to a shift that requires more standing, resist the impulse to fight your way through the new stress on your feet, physiotherapist Rob Thorburn told ABC Life. "The people who keep going through and their body doesn't quite adapt, they get those overuse injuries," he said.
3. Buy the right shoes. Podiatrist Patrick Raftery from central west New South Wales advised nurses to avoid choosing shoes based on looks. "Make sure there's plenty of room in the toe, so when you're walking around you don't bump your toe against the top of the shoe," he told ABCL. "Good leather will actually mold, have a memory and actually be more comfortable over a long period of time."
Other shoe must-haves include well-fastened, enclosed footwear, a wide heel, a firm back that will support your ankles and cushioned lining.
4. Walk in water. For after-work foot care, Thorburn stressed the benefits of water. "Warm water tends to relieve the muscles and the hydrostatic pressure as well," he said. "Getting into the water is often a good way of offloading all the bones and muscles, so going for a swim or even just walking in water would be beneficial."
5. Try some yoga. Seriously, yoga can stretch your foot muscles and increase your range of motion, according to Annette Tersigni, RN and founder of YogaNurse®. "Start with a simple stretching exercise by rolling a tennis or golf ball under your feet. Then, proceed to a standing pose like Tadasana (Mountain Pose) to build awareness of your feet," she said. "You can then proceed to yoga poses like downward facing dog and hero pose that can give your feet a nice stretch."
It’s important to remember, noted Tersigni, that while yoga can help alleviate foot pain, it won’t address the underlying cause. “If you’re suffering from chronic foot pain accompanied by tingling sensation or numbness, get professional help as soon as possible.”
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