Effect of a foot pump device on lower leg swelling in physically inactive office workers

Office workers have been shown to experience orthostatic lower leg swelling (gravitational swelling) after a full work day of sitting, with their legs in a relatively immobilized position (Goddard et al., 2008; Belczak et al., 2009; Brodovicz et al, 2009). This position causes the calf muscle to deactivate which has been shown to be associated with an increase in swelling (Bergqvist et al., 2009). Lower leg swelling causes pain, discomfort, heaviness and tenderness in the legs (Partsch et al., 2004; Zervides et al., 2008; Belczak et al., 2009).

The authors aimed by this study was to examine the effect of using a foot pump device (FPD) on orthostatic lower leg swelling in physically inactive office workers. Thirty-four physically inactive office workers (age: 41.6 ± 8.9 years, 26 females, 8 males) were included in the study. They participated in two exercise days (day 1 and 2), spaced one week apart. For day 1, participants were randomised to either exercising the left or right leg, using the FPD, with the opposite leg acting as the control. For day 2 there was a cross-over. Forty foot pumps were performed seated over 45 minutes of each hour for eight hours (total of 320 foot pumps/day).

Lower leg volume changes were measured immediately before and after the eight hours. Volume changes were measured using water displacement volumetry. Participants had a 15 minute walking break every hour after the 45 minutes of sitting. Heart rate and steps taken were recorded on both days.

There were no differences between day 1 and day 2 for heart rate or steps taken. There were no significant difference between the pre and post volumes for day 1 and day 2 for the FPD leg. There were significant increases in the post volume compared to pre for the control leg on day 1  and day 2. Therefore, the use of the FPD prevented an increase in lower leg swelling over a working day in physically inactive office-workers.