Maybe you blew them off as ordinary leg cramps because you were out of shape, or have gotten a little older. Since the pain went away after a little while, you may have even forgotten it was a problem. However, if your legs and feet have been aching regularly when you try to be active, that could be a sign of something more serious than normal soreness—intermittent claudication.
A Warning Sign
This condition is actually considered a symptom of a larger problem: peripheral artery disease (PAD). The cramping pain and tingling you feel in your feet and legs when you exercise comes from too little blood flow. Main arteries become partially blocked by plaque, restricting circulation. Then when you are being active, your muscles are not able to receive the level of oxygen they desperately need to keep moving. When they are not able to replenish their energy with fresh oxygen, they begin to cramp. Generally when you rest, the pain decreases.
The complications that arise from untreated intermittent claudication can be quite serious. Bits of plaque could break off and form clots that can float through the body. If those reach the brain or heart before breaking apart, you could suffer a heart attack or stroke. As the PAD causing the problem advances, you may experience pain while doing less strenuous activities as well. Discomfort at rest is a sign of a severe problem; the blood flow is blocked enough that it could cause your foot and leg tissues to die from lack of oxygen.
Reaching the Source
If you’re experiencing frequent foot and leg cramping when you try to exercise, don’t ignore it. An evaluation with our staff can help you determine if you are experiencing intermittent claudication or a different possible culprit. Once the problem has been properly diagnosed, you can begin treatment. Dealing with the source of the problem—your blocked arteries—is what will help relieve the pain.
Even though it is uncomfortable to do so, do not stop exercising. Activity improves blood flow, especially to the feet and legs. You may also need to change aspects of your lifestyle, like quitting smoking and eating healthily. Blood pressure or cholesterol medication can help manage the plaque build-up in your vessels. If the condition has become serious, you may need a procedure to open up or repair your arteries.
Circulation problems can have serious ramifications for your health and comfort. Painful problems like intermittent claudication are not just uncomfortable, they are signs of conditions that need treatment before they worsen. If you have pain in your feet and ankles while exercising, even if it feels better with rest, don’t ignore it. You could be allowing a serious issue to develop complications that affect your quality of life. Instead, contact the experts at Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona for an appointment or more information. Visit the contact page online or call either of our two offices—(480) 963-9000 for the Chandler office and (480) 981-1800 for the Gilbert location—and take care of your feet. You can also reach both offices by fax. (480) 963-9000 for Chandler and (480) 981-0229 for Gilbert.