5 Common Foot Problems Teachers Face
Teachers play a big role in shaping who we are today. Teachers selflessly pass on their knowledge, instil a love for learning and motivate us to be the best that we can be. We appreciate our educators for their passion and love of teaching but many are unaware of the foot problems they face. We have all felt it before – muscle fatigue and sore feet as a result of prolonged periods of standing. For some, aches and pains can arise from just standing for 30 minutes on the MRT ride home. For teachers, it is much tougher on their feet as they are standing at least 4 to 6 hours on a daily basis, which is actually a major occupational hazard!
Here are 5 common foot problems that teachers have and how to manage them:
1. Heel pain
One of the most common complaints that podiatrists get from teachers is heel pain. Heel pain can be due to many different conditions, but the most frequent diagnosis would be plantar fasciitis.
Plantar fasciitis is an overuse injury to the plantar fascia, which is a broad band of connective tissue connecting the heel bone to the base of the toes. The plantar fascia functions to support and prevent flattening of the arch during standing and walking.
Imagine the plantar fascia as a rope that is tied to a rock that is your heel bone. When you have flat feet and your arch flattens, this leads to the rope being pulled very tightly against the heel bone. Using this analogy, prolonged standing results in a huge force constantly pulling on the rope for hours without letting go. This persistent pressure will eventually lead to injury and inflammation around the heel.
A podiatrist can treat this painful condition by reducing the tension at the plantar fascia by prescribing orthotics (insoles). Not to worry our lady teachers! With enhanced technology these days, we are able to customise insoles to be of slimmer materials (without compromising support) to fit into ladies shoes. If there are tight muscles and stiff joints that are contributing the heel pain, release of the muscles and joint mobilisations are techniques that can be performed together with the prescription of home exercises.
All of us have two small sesamoid bones located under our big toe joint which helps to stabilise the big toe as we toe-off to propel forward each step. When excessive pressure is placed under the ball of the foot, such as during running, jumping and dancing, this may cause the sesamoid bones to be susceptible to injury and inflammation (sesamoiditis). Unfortunately for teachers, sesamoiditis can worsen with prolonged standing or walking and can also be aggravated by ill fitting shoes and high heels.
There are also certain foot types that are prone to developing sesamoiditis, such as feet with bunions, high arched or flat feet.
At The Sole Clinic, the Podiatrist will assess the foot structure, walking and running gait to determine the cause of the injury before managing it with insoles and padding to take the pressure off from the painful sesamoids and facilitate healing.
3. Plantar Plate Injury
Are you experiencing pain at the ball of your foot, particularly underneath the 2nd toe, every time you’re walking to a class or while you are teaching? If you are, you may be suffering from a plantar plate injury! The plantar plate is a fibrocartilaginous structure which connects the metatarsal heads to the base of the toes and helps to stabilise the toes while walking. With a plantar plate injury, the toe will start to claw or deviate as an injured plantar plate is not strong enough to hold the toe in place.
Teachers are at risk of developing a plantar plate injury if they constantly wear narrow, high heeled shoes as most of the body weight is transferred to the balls of the feet. Also, with prolonged standing at work, one can develop tight calves which will aggravate the plantar plate injury as greater pressure will go to the toes.
There are many ways to manage a plantar plate injury including insoles, taping, calf release and stretching exercises. A podiatrist will be able to assess the cause of injury and manage accordingly.
4. Posterior Tibialis Tendon Dysfunction
The posterior tibialis tendon originates from the inner shin bone and inserts into the navicular bone, and its main job is to hold up the arch of the foot. Posterior tibialis tendon dysfunction occurs when the tendon gets overused with long hours of standing and walking. The tendon weakens, gets inflamed and in turn, cause pain. Symptoms include pain and swelling at the back of the inner ankle bone, progressive flattening of the arch and turning out of toes. You will also find it difficult to tip toe on the affected foot.
As the condition can worsen over time, it is necessary to see a podiatrist for immediate treatment. Treatment includes using insoles to accommodate the tendon, taping, stretching and strengthening exercises.
5. Fungal Nails (Onychomycosis)
We see an increasing number of teachers seeking treatment for fungal nails in our clinic every week. Singapore’s tropical climate unfortunately creates a moist and warm environment for fungi to grow and the likelihood of developing fungal nail infections are increased if you have to wear covered shoes for prolonged hours.
Did you know? Fungal nail infections can appear in many different forms:
Distal Subungual Onychomycosis
• The most common form of fungal nail infection (75-85%)
• Thickening of the nail with yellowish, brown discolouration
• Infection starts at the nail tip (where you normally trim) or via the sides and can slowly work its way under and through the entire nail.
Superficial White Onychomycosis
• 10% of the cases.
• Thin nail with white patches on the surface of the nail.
Proximal Subungual Onychomycosis
• Yellow, white discolouration near the cuticle, can cause separation of the nail from the cuticle.
• Infection starts at the area of the nail near the cuticle and also affects the new nail that is growing.
It is important to treat fungal nail infections earlier because fungi can spread from a small area of the nail to the entire nail. The longer you have the infection and the worse it gets, the harder it is to treat. If the infection is very mild, topical antifungal medications from the pharmacy may still be able to work. However, if the nail has thickened, the nail has to be thinned down by a podiatrist first to allow better penetration of any medication through the nail plate. For severe infections, oral antifungal medications can be prescribed by the doctor but there are notable side effects with these drugs.
At The Sole Clinic, we are using Photodynamic light therapy with excellent results to destroy fungus on the surface of nails and skin by staining the infected nail with a special blue dye and making the fungus sensitive under LED light. An advantage of this treatment is that there are no known contraindications, thus making it a safe treatment even whilst pregnant and breastfeeding.
To our dedicated educators who are suffering with feet problems, fret not! We will be able to help you ease the weariness of prolonged standing. Feel free to Whatsapp your queries to a Podiatrist at 91754929 or contact 81251717 for an appointment!