Does that Plant have Fasciitis? Field Biologists Discover Foot Pain
Posted by Jenn F. on Friday, February 8th, 2013
I’ve always found field biology to be glamorous. Sure, you’re out in the mud day after day. Your hairdo devolves to so much bird’s nest after the first hour or so. Your hands callous, your nose pinkens, and you get burrs in your socks. But think about the discoveries! Biologists are out there in the real world, figuring out how things work. They toil in the hot sun taking measurements, observing wildlife, and just generally using their formidable brains. I admire it. Then they bring all that data back to the lab to study amidst the fancy aquariums, stuffed bear heads, and human skeletons. It’s right out of a movie! Of course, being a field biologist is a physically taxing occupation. It only just occurred to me that foot problems probably plague the profession like they do other standing-all-day jobs. One likely culprit: plantar fasciitis.
We’ve talked about plantar fasciitis before. It’s an extremely common condition, especially in older adults or in active people (runners live in constant fear of the condition). A quick recap: the plantar fascia is the ligament that connects the ball of the foot to the heel. It plays an important role in supporting your arch and, therefore, in maintaining proper posture and a healthy gait. The plantar fascia can become inflamed all on its own (often the result of long hours on one’s feet or repetitive strain from running) or it can occur alongside heel spurs: calcerous bone deposits on the heel.
Biologists are a wide demographic group. You’ve got your young whippersnappers cutting their teeth on new research, your middle-aged professionals publishing findings right and left, and your elderly masters, teaching the young. The rigors of fieldwork take their toll on both young and old, though older people are at greater risk. The nature of the work has a great deal to do with risk as well, as you might expect. A bird watcher may be in less danger than, say, a spelunker researching bats. The more stress and strain on the feet, the more likely a biologist is to suffer from plantar fasciitis.
When you’re doing fieldwork, a missed day or week means missed data, data that may not be replaceable. That makes protecting one’s feet extremely important. So what can a mild mannered researcher do?
- The best way to protect your feet is to wear excellent, supportive shoes specifically designed to help with plantar fasciitis. Orthotics may also help, especially if you’ve got very flat feet or very high arches.
- Take breaks as often as possible. Carry a compact camping chair with you for long and sit down to record your numbers or to observe a subject.
- Stretch your calves: tight calves can put strain on the plantar fascia causing or exacerbating injury.
- If you have pain in your arch and are worried about plantar fasciitis, The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900).
If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. Geldwert, Dr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.