Many health practitioners and specialists preach about the benefits of walking, but what about when it causes leg pains? There are known benefits to our body with walking, lower rates of heart disease and some cancers, but what about when our legs ache during and after walking. Here is some information about four non-arthritic conditions that can cause leg pain and affect your walking.
Peripheral arterial disease
Peripheral arterial disease, known as PAD, is a form of atherosclerosis, a condition that can lead to strokes and heart attacks. Plaque narrows the walls of the arteries, which causes further clots on the walls narrowing them further.
PAD often causes a cramping, tight pain that can be felt below the narrowed artery. This most commonly occurs in the calf muscle. This pain comes on during walking, gets worse as they continue walking, and goes away with rest. This pain is caused by muscle cells being starved of oxygen due to the obstructed blood flow.
Walking with pain isn’t helpful, but research has found that short bursts of walking before the pain sets, resting until it goes away, the walking again can be helpful. Medical assistance through your General Practitioner is vital to finding the right combination of medication that gets the best results.
Chronic venous insufficiency
Like PAD, chronic venous insufficiency is a condition of poor circulation, but instead of involving the arteries it involves the veins and the way they bring blood back to the heart.
Whilst our arteries are active and push blood along, our veins are not and use the muscles that surround them to provide the pushing power to pump the blood back toward the heart. Tiny valves inside your veins additionally help to keep the blood flowing backward.
In people with chronic venous insufficiency the valves are damaged, so the blood tends to pool in the legs and feet. This causes blood pressure to increase in the veins, causing them to stretch out. This prevents the valves from closing properly, creating a vicious cycle of increasing vein pressure.
Chronic venous insufficiency can result in swelling, inflamed skin and connective tissue, and can even lead to open wounds and ulcers on the bones of the ankles. It can also cause aching, heavy legs and a tight pain in the groin and thigh can occur, especially with walking.
Depending on the severity relief can be achieved with anything from lying down and elevating your legs, to compression stockings designed to squeeze hard at the ankle. In serious cases surgery is required which involves closing damaged veins permanently. A visit to your General Practitioner is advised to help find the best treatment method.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal cord, or nerve roots that branch from it, are pinched by the vertebrae, spinal discs or their supporting structures. Pain occurs as a result of the pressure on the nerve, as well as the reduced blood flow to the nerves.
When spinal stenosis affects the lumbar spine (the vertebrae that make up the lower back) lower back and leg pain are commonly seen. The pain resembles peripheral arterial disease with cramping tightness, muscle weakness and numbness.
Physical therapy and exercises that work to strengthen the back and core muscles works well to improve pain. Pain relievers can also help. In persistent cases surgery is effective in cutting away the parts of the vertebrae to create more space for spinal cord and nerves.
People diagnosed with diabetes are prone to nerve damage, also known as neuropathy. Diabetics generally have high levels of sugar in the blood, this sugar can damage the blood vessels starving the nerves of oxygen. Diabetes can also inhibit the ability of the body to repair nervous tissue.
This nerve damage results in numbness or tingling throughout the leg. This numbness dulls painful sensations, so sores on the feet and legs can go unnoticed and get worse. However leg pain can be improved with exercise, as long as it is managed in moderation.
By managing and keeping their blood sugar down, diabetics can reduce their chances of developing neuropathy. Otherwise management involves organising a medication plan with your General Practitioner to manage any burning or tingling associated with neuropathy.