The Heel With It: Mail Carriers and Plantar Fasciitis
Posted by Jenn F. on Monday, December 31st, 2012
American history was made through the postal service. Bills were passed into law, decreed by certified mail from the colonies. Families were told of their lost loved ones overseas, soldiers who gave their lives in foreign wars. Presidents were elected by absentee ballot. And in every case, those letters were delivered by the stalwart men and women of the United States Postal Service. But delivering mail is no easy task. It involves long walks over uneven terrain in all weather, through brush and brambles, and over cobblestones and flagstones and gravel. It’s no wonder then that mailmen and women experience a range of foot disorders, particularly in the heel. One of the most common foot disorders in this demographic, plantar fasciitis, is the result of cumulative trauma: years and years of pounding the pavement in the service of the people of the United States.
Mail carriers often suffer from heel spurs: calcareous bone deposits on the heel. These growths are the result of years of repetitive stress on the bones of the feet. The condition may accompany or result from severe inflammation of the plantar fascia. For this reason, heel spurs and plantar fascia are often lumped into one co-morbid category—plantar fasciitis—even though it is possible to have one without the other.
You mean fascia like Mussolini? Not exactly, though I wouldn’t be surprised if sore feet were behind his dictatorial moodiness. The plantar fascia is the ligament-like tissue that connects the ball of the foot to the heel—that tight band you feel in your arch when you flex your foot. It’s extremely important for arch support but is also very susceptible to injury in people who spend a great deal of time on their feet (or in people who are overweight, in poor physical condition, or who wear unsupportive shoes, but most mail carriers aren’t in any of these categories). In fact, what makes plantar fasciitis so interesting in mail carriers, is the very good health most of them enjoy otherwise.
So what can a mail carrier do to prevent cumulative trauma injuries like heel spurs and plantar fasciitis?
- Wear extremely supportive shoes that correct any anatomical abnormalities like pronations. Orthotics will also help, especially for carriers with exceptionally flat feet or high arches (both risk factors for plantar fasciitis).
- Take breaks throughout the day. Feet get tired and tired feet are more prone to injury. If you can, work several small breaks into your route. Mail carriers are allowed a 30 minute lunch break and two 10 minute rest breaks during the day. Try splitting your time into five 10 minute breaks instead to give your feet as many short breathers as possible.
- Stretch your calf muscles before your shift, and again at the end. Tight calf muscles can put added strain on the plantar fascia, contributing to injury.
- Cut down on extra-curricular walking. If your transmission fails, don’t hoof it to the nearest gas station. Call a cab!
- If you have consistent pain in your arch or heel, visit The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) for treatment.
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.