Claudication, also known as intermittent claudication, is a muscle pain that occurs due to insufficient blood supply to the muscles while moving and disappears with rest and is a circulatory problem that often affects legs after walking or exercising at a given speed and for a certain amount of time.

Claudication arises when muscle cells work harder and require more oxygen than the blood can provide during movement such as exercise. The discomfort associated with claudication is not always constant since it typically begins during physical activity and subsides with rest.

If left untreated, the condition may progress to the point where the pain occurs even at rest. In severe cases, the pain may be debilitating and prevent individuals from engaging in simple activities such as walking. Claudication-related pain can signify major health problems, most often peripheral arterial disease, a narrowing of arteries in the limbs that inhibits blood flow.

There are various treatments available to manage claudication, including lifestyle modifications, medication, and surgery. Treatments are aimed at improving circulation in the areas of pain. Specifically, alleviating discomfort, enhancing mobility, avoiding tissue damage, and minimizing the risk of serious heart and circulation problems.


Claudication is a condition that specifically affects the muscles and does not typically cause joint pain or arthritis. Once physical activity is stopped and the affected muscles are rested, the pain associated with claudication should subside within a few minutes or less. This muscle pain is caused by a lack of oxygen to the muscles, which is triggered by activity and relieved by rest. Symptoms commonly include:

  • Typically presents as muscle pain, spasms, cramps, aching, or fatigue in certain muscles that are being used during physical activity
  • Calves, thighs, buttocks, hips, or feet pain
  • Pain in the shoulders, biceps, and forearms occurs occasionally
  • Pain that improves quickly after resting

In some cases, the pain associated with claudication may progress and occur even when the individual is at rest or is no longer active. In severe cases, signs or symptoms of advanced peripheral artery disease may also develop, including:

  • Skin feels colder
  • Intense, constant pain that advances to feeling of numbness
  • Noticeably pale or discoloration of the skin
  • Slow to heal wounds

If there is noticeable pain in the legs or arms during exercise, it is important to consult a healthcare provider. Other conditions affecting the blood, nerves, and bones can also cause pain during exercise. Early treatment is crucial in order to prevent or minimize potential complications in the future.

Claudication can set off a cycle that deteriorates cardiovascular health. Activity may become uncomfortable due to pain, and a lack of physical activity may result in poorer health. Peripheral artery disease indicates poor cardiovascular health and a higher risk of heart attack and stroke.

Identifying the underlying cause of pain resembling claudication may involve evaluating several potential illnesses that are significantly more hazardous. A comprehensive examination and appropriate diagnostic tests are necessary to determine various sources of pain.


A condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD) is the primary cause of intermittent claudication. The condition of intermittent claudication is caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque on the inner walls of arteries. With the progression of this accumulation, the arteries narrow, reducing the space for blood to flow through them. If plaque or a blood clot narrows or blocks the arteries, blood can’t get through to nourish organs and other tissues.

Peripheral artery disease is caused by arterial injury that restricts blood flow in an arm or leg (a limb). When a person is at rest, the restricted blood flow is usually sufficient. When an individual is physically active, inadequate oxygen and nutrients are supplied to the muscles affected by intermittent claudication, leading to compromised functionality and diminished overall health.

Because the circulatory system of the body is linked, the effects of PAD might spread beyond the affected limb. People who have atherosclerosis in their legs are more likely to get it in other sections of their bodies.

Risk factors

Several factors may contribute to increasing one’s risk of claudication as well as peripheral artery disease, such as:

  • Family history: Having a personal or family history of atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease or claudication
  • Age: Age 70 years or older
  • Tobacco use or with diabetes, who are age 50 years and older
  • Weight: Obesity increases the risk to develop claudication
  • Other disease: The pre-existing condition could increase the risk of claudication such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and high cholesterol