Standing All Day at the Pharmacy Takes a Physical Toll


If you stand all day for your job, do yourself a favor: buy some support socks.

I started my first hospital pharmacy job during the winter of 1988. It was a great learning experience, as my supervisor at the time helped me understand all the intricacies of running a hospital pharmacy.

My shift was usually from 12:30 PM to 9 PM, which freed up my mornings. Being young and full of energy, I took a morning job 2 to 4 days a week helping out a 77-year-old pharmacist named Fred who still ran his own successful independent store. I’d show up at 9 AM and work until noon, and then I’d drive across town and present at the hospital for my 12:30 shift.

Fred had varicose veins and it hurt him to stand for any length of time. His normal process was to sit in his chair with his leg up on a stool and verify the work his technicians and clerks did for him. He’d tell me stories about the 50+ years he spent standing behind the counter, paying no attention to the oncoming pain in his legs until it was too late.

At 24 years old, this was my first exposure to varicose veins. I’m sure we discussed it in pharmacy school, but it certainly didn’t stick as something important to remember. At the time, 77 years old seemed like a lifetime away, and I didn’t think anything like that would ever happen to me.

Ten years later, I was sitting in an orientation session for my new job at an outpatient pharmacy at the local community hospital. Sitting next to me was a gentleman named Howard, a retired pharmacist who owned his own store in town for many years. He’d recently sold his store to one of the chain entities that made him an offer he couldn’t refuse, and now he was working relief in the hospital outpatient pharmacy.

Over the next 7 years or so, I had the privilege of working with Howard at least 1 or 2 days each month. He was one of the most respected and knowledgeable pharmacists I’d ever met. There were many occasions when a patient came to the store when Howard was working and asked a question about a device or product. Howard would go into great depth answering the patient’s question, while at the same time gaining another customer for our pharmacy.

At 70+ years old, Howard had been standing on the job for well over 50 years. At one point, for some reason or other, he said he wanted to show me something. He bent over and pulled up his pant leg, lowered his sock, and showed me the dark blue, swollen knots all around his calf.

Howard’s legs hurt all the time. He needed to take regular breaks to put his feet up. He said he wished someone had warned him about it when he was a young pharmacist. I hadn’t listened to Fred, but I was definitely listening to Howard.

I was about 35 years old when Howard showed me his varicose veins. Now, I’m nearly 53 and have worn support socks to work just about every day since that discussion.

How Varicose Veins Form

Blood circulates through the arteries, providing oxygen to all of the tissues. The unoxygenated blood then needs to be returned to the heart through the veins. Over time, gravitational forces begin to fight against all the blood returning from the bottom of the leg all the way back up to the heart.

When a vein becomes weakened in one particular location, or one of its tiny valves isn’t working well, the unoxygenated blood will accumulate, leading to a small, blue bulge. Over time, more blue bulges will form. They’ll become larger and begin to compress the surrounding nerve endings, making them difficult to ignore.

Varicose veins may form because we’re overweight or our veins have become weak over time. For Howard and Fred, however, they formed because they’d been standing all day, every day. That constant gravitational pressure over the course of 50+ years made it very likely for varicose veins to develop. Therefore, those standing all day long at work need to pay special attention to the health of their legs.

A Simple Fix

Support socks are made from strong, elasticized material that help our veins push the unoxygenated blood back up to the heart. If you start wearing these socks before you need them, chances are you’ll never develop varicose veins.

If you stand all day for your job, do yourself a favor: buy some support socks.

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