What is Pain-Free Walking Distance?
The distance a person can walk without experiencing any pain is known as their pain-free walking distance. Pain associated with walking is usually caused due to insufficient blood supply to the leg muscles, known as claudication.
Factors contributing to Pain with Walking
Some of the factors that affect a pain-free walking distance include:
- Peripheral artery disease
- Atherosclerosis (fat build-up in the arteries)
- Old age
- High cholesterol
- Chronic kidney disease
- High blood pressure
Diagnosis of Conditions affecting Pain-Free Walking Distance
Conditions that limit pain-free walking may be diagnosed by the presence of symptoms, a physical examination, and certain tests which may include:
- Pulse Measurement in the Feet: This is done to assess blood flow in the limbs.
- Ankle Brachial Index: This test compares blood pressure between the arms and feet.
- Exercise Test: This is done to accurately measure the pain-free walking distance.
- Doppler Ultrasound: This measures blood flow using sound waves.
- CT or MRI scan: These advanced imaging studies provide detailed images of the soft tissues.
Treatments to Improve Pain-Free Walking Distance
The various options to improve pain-free walking include:
- Walking Programs: Exercise improves vascular health in the affected limbs, decreases discomfort, reduces disability, and enhances the quality of life in general. Although the specific walking program will be personalized to your health condition, the general steps in a walking program include:
- Walk as far as you can or until you experience some discomfort.
- Rest for a while to ease any pain.
- Walk again when symptoms subside.
Follow this walking/resting cycle for 30 to 45 minutes every other day.
- Medications: Your doctor provides medications as needed to control pain, high cholesterol, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular risks. You should discuss any medications or supplements you currently take with your doctor.
- Surgery: If the underlying cause for pain with walking is very severe, such as seen in peripheral vascular disease, surgical procedures such as angioplasty or vascular surgery may be necessary.
Preventing Pain with Walking
Pain with walking can be prevented by:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Exercising regularly
- Managing cholesterol and blood pressure
- Maintaining blood sugar control if you have diabetes
- Quitting smoking