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Leg Pain While Walking|Causes, Symptoms Intermittent Claudication

Leg pain may be due to a number of causes that could aggravate during walking, standing or associated leg movements and exercises. However, when leg pain occurs while walking and eases upon rest, it is known as intermittent claudication. If the pain is isolated to the joints and surrounding area (arthralgia), then it may be related to the various causes of joint  pain.

Arterial Claudication

Arterial insufficiency is the most common cause of intermittent claudication. Here the pain is a result of  ischemia  usually (tissue injury due to a lack of sufficient oxygen) as a result of arterial insufficiency. The increased demand for oxygen by the muscle cells during activity, like walking, cannot be met due to a compromised artery. This is often as a result of atherosclerosis, blood clot formation (thrombus or embolus) and other causes as discussed under Narrowing Artery.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Cramping or crushing pain that is more prominent in the muscles of the leg, particularly the calf but could extend to the entire thigh and buttock.
  • Usually one sided – unilateral.
  • Gradually starts after walking a short distance and eases a few minutes after resting.
  • Affected leg may be normal to pale in color.
  • No swelling is present but the area may be cool  to touch.
  • Leg or foot pulses may be absent or severely reduced.

Since arterial insufficiency is the most common cause, the term ‘intermittent claudication’ usually refers to arterial occlusion.

Venous Claudication

Venous claudication is leg pain that aggravates upon walking and is due to poor drainage of blood from the legs as a result of compromised veins or blockage within the vein. One of the common causes of venous claudication is a blood clot like deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and valve insufficiency as is seen in varicose veins.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Burning pain, sensation of tightness or fullness (congestion) that is present through most of the leg.
  • Usually one sided – unilateral.
  • Develops gradually from the start of walking and eases long after resting, or only upon elevating legs.
  • Normal to purple or blue in color
  • Swelling almost always present.

Neurogenic claudication

Also known as spinal claudication, it is due to root compression of the nerve(s) supplying the leg (lumbar spine stenosis). Degeneration of the intervertebral disc and trauma are common causes of a pinched lumbar nerve. Other musculoskeletal conditions involving the lumbar spine may also cause neurogenic claudication.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Shooting or burning pain through the whole leg, especially along the course of the affected nerve. It may be associated with  numbness, tingling and “pins and needles” sensation.
  • Usually occurs on both legs (bilateral)
  • Starts immediately upon standing or walking and eases when leaning forward or sitting
  • No change in skin color.
  • No swelling present.

Leg Pain Related Articles

  1. Leg and Foot Pain
  2. Leg Pain in Children
  3. Leg Joint Pain