Foot Pain in an Aging Work Force: Fighting Baby Boomer-itis
Posted by Jenn F. on Wednesday, December 19th, 2012
In our extremely difficult and volatile economy, more older Americans are continuing to work far longer than in years past. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proportion of older workers (over age 55) will increase steadily from 12% in 2000 to 20% by 2025. The physical affects of aging don’t hold off because a person decides not to retire. So, increasingly, workers are suffering from physical ailments. Of course, the feet are often one of the first places people feel their age: a lifetime of activity eventually takes its toll. If aging workers are doing jobs that require them to be mobile, foot pain can lead to disability and to dire financial straits. Clearly this is a growing problem.
What happens to the feet as we age? Good question. As a person ages, all of the tissues in the body (including tendons, faschia, and ligaments) begin to lose their elasticity. This makes them more susceptible to tears and it reduces their ability to absorb shock as a person moves. As a plantar faschia rupture sufferer, I can tell you with personal authority: this is a truly painful injury that takes a very long time to heal. I was in a cast for several weeks and it still have pain if I don’t warm up before I exercise. If you’re having faschia pain (pain in your arch, on the bottom of your foot) visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900 ). Tendon, faschia, and ligament tears can be debilitating, especially in an older person. The only way to prevent them is to wear supportive shoes, get regular gentle exercise, and try to avoid traumatic events like slipping on the ice (easier said than done.)
The foot’s fat pads also thin with age, which further reduces shock absorption. This can occur in the pad that cushions the heel, or in the pads of the forefoot. These foot pads absorb a large amount of the impact of every step. Without them, the metatarsal heads suffer the brunt of impact. This can cause bone bruising, stress fractures, and chronic pain. Fortunately, if you have foot pad atrophy, there are several ways to protect your feet from pain and further damage:
- Use metatarsal cushions in your shoes. These are available at most pharmacies and online.
- Choose well-padded shoes.
- Avoid walking barefoot. This puts added pressure on your thinned pads and can exacerbate the problem (not to mention the pain it will likely cause in the meantime).
- Avoid high heels at all costs.
- Avoid putting excessive weight on the balls of your feet (no sprinting, baseball catching, or basketball for you.)
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.