SATURDAY, Feb. 21, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Supervised exercise programs offer an effective way to treat the lower leg pain and cramping caused by peripheral arterial disease, a new study says.
The Dutch study, published in the February issue of the Journal of Vascular Surgery, involved 272 people with the type of leg pain that occurs while walking, known as intermittent claudication. They were enrolled in a program in which they walked on an inclined treadmill several times a week and were encouraged to make other health improvements. The number of sessions was eventually reduced, based on each person's progress.
After a year, the distance the participants were walking had more than doubled, with much of it being pain-free. Just 16 percent of the original group of participants ended up needing vascular surgery for their condition.
"Supervised exercise therapy represents a viable treatment of intermittent claudication with no known complications, which cannot be said of invasive treatment options," lead author Dr. Joep A. W. Teijink, a vascular surgeon at Atrium Medical Centre in Heerlen, the Netherlands, said in a news release issued by the journal's publisher. "It has the potential to treat patients safely, preventing an invasive vascular intervention. Even though many people discontinue [the program] prematurely, its noninvasive nature and satisfactory improvement in the majority of patients are reasons to use it as the initial treatment."
More than half of the participants left the program during the year. Of those 143 people, 19 said they were happy with their progress and no longer needed the program, 48 said they found the results unsatisfying or they lacked motivation, 48 quit because of a non-related disease or condition and 28 cited other reasons.
The researchers said that just three months of participation in such a program, though, would give doctors enough information to evaluate the results for an individual and determine whether other intervention would be needed.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has more about peripheral arterial disease.SOURCE: Society for Vascular Surgery, news release, Feb. 10, 2009