Calf Pain May Be Intermittent Claudication

by Gabe Mirkin, M.D. - Date: 2007-01-22 - Word Count: 269 Share This!

If your legs don't hurt at rest and you develop pain in your calves after walking for a short time, you may have a condition called intermittent claudication, a partial obstruction of the blood flow to your legs. When you walk, your leg muscles require a large amount of blood and a partial obstruction of the arteries carrying blood to your legs can prevent extra blood from getting through, causing your calf muscles to hurt. Several weeks of an exercise program can triple the distance you can walk without pain, but people with intermittent claudication have blocked arteries in other areas, so check with your doctor. You need to find out why your arteries are blocked, and you may need a supervised exercise program to prevent further complications.

A recent study from Australia shows that a regular exercise program of walking, but not cycling, can markedly prolong the distances patients with intermittent claudication can walk before they develop pain (Journal of Vascular Surgery, July 2006). This study shows that training is specific. World-class triathletes who compete in swimming, running and cycling are never world-class in any of these sports. You use your leg muscles much differently in walking, running and cycling. Running and walking stress primarily the muscles in your lower legs, while cycling stresses primarily the muscle in your upper legs.

If you want to be the best you can be in any sport, spend your time training in that sport, rather than cross-training. When you are working to correct a problem that occurs when you walk, it makes sense to use the same motions in your supervised exercise program.

Related Tags: calf pain, intermittent claudication, blocked arteries

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Dr. Gabe Mirkin has been a radio talk show host for 25 years and practicing physician for more than 40 years; he is board certified in four specialties, including sports medicine. Read or listen to hundreds of his fitness and health reports -- and the FREE Good Food Book -- at

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