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Lower Limb Health: Productivity Gains of 27%

News Release
For immediate release
February 10, 2008

Productivity Gains of 27% Possible with Attention Given To Lower Limb Health

At least a quarter of an employee's day could be unproductive due to the pain and discomfort of being on their feet all day or from lifting and kneeling - a 27% productivity loss over a week.

Podiatrist John Miller says his staff regularly deals with clients – especially those working in retail – who say that by mid-afternoon each day they can't serve customers appropriately because they're in too much pain.

"That loss of productivity adds up for employers," he says.

"When you have to contend with a grumpy retail assistant, legal executive or plumber, think a moment before judging their attitude. It might be they're in discomfort from being on their feet all day, wearing inappropriate shoes or their hips, knees, ankles or feet are incorrectly positioned. That can all impact their lower back quite significantly."

Miller, who is a director of Foot Mechanics, says by mid-afternoon some people just want to avoid dealing with customers altogether and are upset they can't do their jobs as they would like to.

"They get genuinely concerned about their abrupt attitude towards customers as a result of their pain."

Miller says the impact of bad foot positioning, standing all day or kneeling and lifting heavy objects could have serious detrimental long term effects.

"Podiatry deals with the full range of biomechanical movement from the hips down or feet up including lower back pain. The impact of sore feet isn't limited to just feet.

"People need to know that foot positioning will speed up the wear and tear on knees, and the curvature in their back is created by the position of their foot."

Results from a recent study on men spending significant time kneeling during the work day have shown they are at a great risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. Published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine the study reflects the problems podiatrists deal with in both men and women in New Zealand.

Knee osteoarthritis is potentially generated by the type of work people do. In the retail sector women wearing high heel shoes develop foot or lower limb pain, and Miller says many women don't realise certain types of shoes don't suit their feet.

"Other professionals who walk and stand for the majority of their day like real estate agents, legal executives or accounting assistants, can also suffer from arthritis. They need to be aware of the potential adverse affect to their body resulting from standing or kneeling for long periods of time, and learn how to avoid or treat painful knee osteoarthritis."

There are ways for employers to help staff avoid this type of pain such as providing soft rubber mats for retail staff to stand on behind checkout counters. Various types of footwear worn can correct foot positioning and special orthotic exercises enable feet strengthening. A podiatrist will be able to assess what is needed.

"Carpet layers, carpenters and plumbers are different to the rest of the workforce because they do so much heavy lifting and kneeling. They need to be thinking about the kinds of surfaces they are working on to avoid knee damage."

Miller says knee osteoarthritis develops later on in life with pain and stiffness and while wear and tear experienced in the lower limbs cannot be reversed, it can be minimised from that point forward.

"Arthritis is a painful, crippling disease. During the degeneration process people are not aware it's happening to them but once arthritis starts it does not stop."


About Foot Mechanics
Foot Mechanics has clinics in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato and Manawatu regions and are experienced providers for some of New Zealand's top sport teams including the All Blacks, Silver Ferns and Black Caps.

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