Man running outside

Are you or your loved one a PAD patient? If yes, you might be aware of how painful it can get. It is a condition characterized by discomfort or pain during walking. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a vaso-occlusive disease resulting from the accumulation of fat in the blood vessels of arms and legs.

In PAD, plaque accumulation is commonly found in the arteries of the legs, but it might also affect the head, kidney, arms, and other organs. In this condition, the patient feels discomfort or pain while moving limbs. This pain or discomfort is the way your brain signals that your limbs are not getting sufficient blood and oxygen supply. Exercise can help reduce pain and discomfort. 

Symptoms of PAD

The most common symptoms of PAD are:

  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in legs or arms
  • Cramping or discomfort in your limbs while you are moving them
  • Cuts or sores that do not heal

Risk Factors of PAD

You are most likely to have PAD if you are:

  • Hypercholesterolemia
  • Diabetic
  • Smoker
  • Hypertensive
  • Older than 50
  • Physically inactive

PAD Exercises

You might worry that exercise exacerbates the pain and discomfort caused by PAD. Contrary to this belief, exercise is one of the best ways to treat this condition and increase your tolerance level for walking. You should be mindful that PAD exercises would not reverse your PAD; however, these exercises may offer some relief.

Studies have shown that patients following a consistent routine of exercise notice improvement in their symptoms as compared to those who do not indulge in physical activity. Supervised Exercise Therapy (SET) is the best way to treat PAD. 

Walking and Treadmill

One of the best and most effective exercises for PAD is walking. Walking enhances blood circulation in your body, making the blood reach the periphery as well. As walking increases heart rate and overall blood flow, the blocked arteries are bypassed; therefore, your limbs can get the required blood and oxygen supply.

Walking might be quite painful in the beginning. Once you get past the initial stage, it will become easier. Start with warming up and stretching exercises. Then start fast walking for 5-10 minutes without stopping. This will be painful but keep going until your pain reaches 3-4 on a scale of 5. Then take a rest. When the pain recedes, continue walking.

The duration of your walking should be 30-60 minutes excluding your resting period. This duration can be reached by increasing your walking period every session. You can challenge yourself by climbing stairs.

Other Exercises for PAD

If walking is too painful for you, you might try other exercises like yoga, a stationary bicycle, or an elliptical. These can increase blood circulation without putting extra pressure. Since the goal is to increase blood flow, working your core muscles can also be fruitful in reducing painful PAD symptoms.

Keep in mind if any of the exercises are straining your brain or heart, stop it immediately as it can lead to stroke or heart attack. It is advisable to consult a physical therapist for better results.

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