Not sure who needs to hear this, but... don’t sit on your foot!
Of all the things we’ve all had to deal with in 2020 and beyond, I wouldn’t have thought this would become a focus for me. Working at home with poor ergonomics has finally brought home the negative effects of one of my bad little habits.
I’ve been sitting with my foot tucked under me for nearly a year.
Finally it started to cause noticeable pain. It got painful enough that I was forced to do something about it. Only now that it’s been a few days am I starting to realize this was a big deal.
That’s when I thought, I should probably share about my foot-sitting issue, why I was doing it, and how I am breaking the habit. I know there are other women like me out there.
Why sit on your foot?
This is an issue of being a small-framed person in furniture built to a design standard. There is a ‘standard’ set of measurements for countertops, doorway height, stair treads, table heights, and more. That standard is built around a human who is 5’10.”
I’m 5’4” and plenty of fully functional adults are my size or smaller.
I sit on my foot because my desk is slightly too high for someone of my frame. For me to sit where I can see my non-adjustable monitor, my chair is a little too high. Sitting with my feet flat on the floor causes my thighs to be at a downward angle.
The only real solutions for my problem would be to:
Make a custom desk, or buy something that is “child-sized”
Make a raised platform for my chair
Set up some kind of foot rest
Or do what I’ve been doing and contort my body to try to make it work.
Making the body fit the furniture is what most of us have been doing all our lives. We’re able to buy standard-sized commodities and we live in standard-sized infrastructure. We probably don’t even realize all the unique and specialized ways we adapt ourselves to our environment, rather than adapting our environment to ourselves.
I think this is why there is such a phenomenon as “man-spreading.” I can’t sit that way on a bus seat, or on a bench, because those seats and benches are too high for my skeletal structure. My feet dangle. A “man” can “spread” because those seating areas are designed for someone who is that height. Not me.
What about a standing desk?
Well, first of all, we’re in a pandemic and I have the furniture that I have.
I’m using the desk that I bought at a time when I only ever planned to sit at it for brief stretches. If I had realized I would be working at this desk for 45 hours a week or more, I would have gone for ergonomics rather than aesthetics.
Second, I learned recently that standing desks are not all they were cracked up to be when they first became a fad several years ago. While sitting is bad for us, standing all day can actually be worse. Among other things, it can increase risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes! They never told us that!
Put simply, the human body is not made to stay in one position for many hours at a stretch, unless it is sleeping. The only way to win is to be able to move around and work in different configurations throughout the day. Some jobs accommodate that and many do not.
Some of us have jobs where it’s a challenge even to get up for a restroom break, much less shift between ergonomically optimized modules.
I did what I could with what I have. That was to order something inexpensive and hope it would help.
What I bought was an adjustable foot rest designed for sleeping on airplanes. It’s a foot hammock that is supposed to strap onto a folding tray table.
Whether this precise object would work for different styles of desk is beyond me. I’m sure it could be modified in some way, or it could spark an idea for something that would serve a similar purpose, which is to elevate the feet while sitting in a standard office chair.
My relief was instant. I was so happy!
Ahhh, I thought. Ahh, my feet are so comfy.
I know how pernicious a long-standing habit can be. I have probably been sitting on my foot as a default “relaxation” posture since grade school. I honestly don’t remember when I first started doing it. Stopping a habit like this is on the order of stopping a habit like hair twirling or nail-biting.
That’s why I was so surprised that the foot hammock worked right away.
Strangely, it wasn’t long after switching to the foot hammock that my ankle started bothering me. My attention was freshly drawn to a part of my body that I have been mistreating for hours every day over many months.
I’ve been stretching and rolling my ankles in circles. I know it’s not recommended, but I’ve also been going at that ankle and calf with the percussion massager. (Using a vibrating massager on your legs can possibly kill you by loosening a blood clot - it’s happened to people before and that’s why it’s mentioned on all the warning labels).
Other people who sit on their own foot may develop problems different than mine. I did a search on the phrase “don’t sit on your foot” and found a bunch of discussion boards talking about just that. Pelvic tilt, lower back pain, knee problems, popped tendons... Not great.
I can only assume that a bad posture habit will get worse over time. I have my reasons for feeling like sitting on my foot was comfortable and natural. It’s something that I have done for decades. Why should I change something that is so much a part of me? Can’t I have anything??
I had to make a change because what I was doing was painful and getting worse. I can only assume that something that is causing me physical pain at age 45 will only be more painful - or impossible - at 55 or 65 or 75.
Working from home has its drawbacks as well as its advantages. If I am going to continue doing it, there are a bunch of changes I plan to make, starting with moving to a place with a second bedroom and buying a proper desk at the right height.
In the meantime, this foot hammock is doing a great job of helping me stop annoying myself. It’s easily adjustable. I can bring it with me if I have to start commuting into the office again. Maybe I’ll even try it out for its intended use one day soon and bring it on an airplane.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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