Understanding PAD

The Best Remedy for Leg Cramps? Walk It Off

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By Henry Ford Health System Staff

Do you ever go for a walk, only to be derailed by cramping in your calves or a feeling of tiredness in your legs? Does the pain ever cause you to limp? If so, you could be experiencing claudication, which is leg cramping due to inadequate blood flow to the muscles.

A common cause of claudication is peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the arteries to cause to blood clots, a need for vascular surgery, or even limb loss. Those who smoke, are overweight or over the age of 60 are at higher risk. The good news is that you can prevent PAD with a little effort and determination.

It might surprise you to learn the best thing you can do for the leg pain while walking is to take a brief rest—and then keep walking.

“I advise my patients to walk for 30 minutes, resting as needed, and remembering not to count the rest periods as part of the 30 minutes,” says vascular surgeon Jordan Knepper, M.D., M.S.c. “Walk as often as you can. Three or four times per week is ideal.”

Dr. Knepper says walking encourages small arteries in the legs to enlarge, which increases blood flow. “Keep in mind that the pain you might feel while walking is not causing further damage,” he says.

If your doctor approves, you can begin a simple walking routine that will start to improve your leg health. Start out with a ten-minute walk and gradually increase your time.

Related Topic: 10 Ways to Walk Your Way to Better Health

Recovering from PAD or a Vascular Procedure

If you have been diagnosed with PAD or you are recovering from a vascular procedure, the best way to get on the right walking path may be through supervised exercise. Many hospitals offer a vascular rehabilitation program, in which you can exercise safely while being monitored by a health care professional. This allows you to build confidence and lengthen the distance you are able to walk, while you reduce the risks that come with vascular disease. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now covers vascular rehabilitation for qualified individuals.

Advanced cases of PAD require treatment, which may include non-surgical procedures or minimally invasive surgery. Ask your primary care physician if you would benefit from a free venous screening or consultation with a vascular surgeon.

To schedule an appointment with your primary care provider or find a vascular surgeon, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936). If you’re in the Jackson area or south central Michigan, visit henryfordallegiance.com or call 1-888-862-DOCS.

Jordan Knepper, M.D., M.S.c., is a vascular surgeon who treats patients at Henry Ford Allegiance Vascular Health in Jackson. Dr. Knepper specializes in non-invasive and minimally invasive procedures to treat venous insufficiency and PAD.