Some people mistakenly think that leg cramps are a natural part of getting older. You might be surprised to learn that leg pain that
develops during walking—and then goes away only with rest—can be caused by intermittent claudication (IC), a potentially disabling yet treatable medical condition, and is associated with nerve root compression in the lower back.
IC affects roughly 3 million people, most of them over age 55. Unfortunately, an estimated 75 percent of all IC sufferers fail to seek medical help, often because they don’t realize that IC is a treatable medical condition.
IC is a symptom of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). PAD—also known as “hardening of the arteries,” or atherosclerosis of the legs—has been estimated to affect approximately 10 percent of people over age 55. PAD occurs when arteries in the legs become clogged with fatty deposits.
It’s not uncommon for people who have PAD to also have atherosclerosis in other parts of the body—especially in the heart and brain. Atherosclerosis is a serious health problem that can lead to heart attack or stroke if left untreated.
The symptoms of IC may be felt in the:
And the symptoms may be felt as:
IC symptoms may be felt in one or both legs and may occur during walking or exercising. The pain is characterized by aching, cramping, tiredness, or tightness of the affected muscle group. Once you stop walking or exercising, the symptoms subside within minutes. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, see your podiatric physician. He or she can diagnose your condition and suggest treatments that may help you walk farther without leg pain.