Not All Aches and Pains Are Created Equal

Be alert to persistent pain while walking or climbing, as it could indicate peripheral arterial disease
By Mat Lecompte
Mat Lecompte
Mat Lecompte
October 17, 2021 Updated: October 19, 2021

Aches and pains are one of the drawbacks of aging. Regardless of your physical condition, some knee, neck, or back pain seems to be unavoidable.

Sometimes it’s nothing. Maybe you slept in an awkward position, spent a lot of time on your legs, or really taxed your muscles with a good workout.

But other times, it can signify something more serious, particularly if it persists without explanation. If the pain is occurring in your legs, it could signify peripheral artery disease.

Peripheral artery disease, or peripheral arterial disease (PAD), happens when plaque accumulates in the arteries of your legs. It happens gradually and limits blood flow to the lower extremities, which can lead to some severe problems. It affects roughly 10 million people in the United States.

The symptoms can begin as simple pain when walking or climbing. You may notice you can’t walk very far without some discomfort, and you may require frequent breaks. Numbness and cramping may occur.

If left unchecked, the symptoms can worsen and become quite severe. You may notice wounds on your feet or lower extremities that don’t heal. Infections can occur and painful foot ulcers may also develop. Gangrene and amputations aren’t out of the question.

This is all happening because blood isn’t able to move into the area.

Your risk of developing PAD is not only age-related. Conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, kidney failure, and obesity can all significantly boost the likelihood of PAD.

Smoking is also a major risk factor.

If you’re feeling some pain in your lower extremities and can’t figure out why, it’s worth a trip to the doctor. If PAD is caught early enough, some lifestyle changes such as boosting exercise, eating better, and losing some weight may help.

In diabetics, it may require a better job managing blood sugar.

If PAD is too far advanced, surgery is a likely outcome.

Keep an eye on random aches and pains as you age. Sometimes it can be serious.

Mat Lecompte is a health and wellness journalist. This article was first published on

Mat Lecompte