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If your calves hurt after walking for five or more minutes, but not at rest, you may have intermittent claudication, a partial obstruction of the blood flow to your legs. An exciting study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that carnitine supplements may help relieve your pain.

The Standard treatment for intermittent claudication is to walk until you feel the pain, rest and then walk again when the pain is gone. Repeat the walk/rests until your legs start to feel stiff and try again on the next day. Carnitine carries fat from the blood into the mitochondria, which is the furnace that burns food, particularly fat, for energy for muscles cells. Don't expect this information to help you now as Propionyl-L-Carnitine has not been approved in North America, even though it has been approved in Europe where it is a popular safe treatment.

When you walk, your leg muscles require a large amount of blood and a partial obstruction of the arteries carrying blood to your legs can prevent extra blood from getting through, causing your calf muscles to hurt. Six weeks of a supervised exercise program can triple the distance you can walk without pain, but people with intermittent claudication have blocked arteries in other areas, so check with your doctor before you start an exercise program (2). Walk until your legs start to hurt, rest and start again after the pain has gone away. You should also be on a low-fat diet and perhaps medication to lower your cholesterol. The only drug that has been shown to delay the pain of intermittent claudication is called Pentoxifylline (3). Chelation is not an effective treatment for intermittent claudication (4). A doctor injects a chemical called EDTA into the veins of people with arteriosclerosis in the hope that it will dissolve fatty plaques.

1) J of the American College of Cardiology. 1999;34:1618-1624.

2) Gardner AW, Poehlman ET. JAMA. 1995(Sept 27);274:975-980.

3) Ernst E: - Pentoxifylline for Intermittent Claudication a Critical Review. SO - Angiology 1994 MAY;45(5):339-3456615 10/4/95.

4) AM Vanrij, C Solomon, SGK Packer, WG Hopkins. Chelation therapy for intermittent claudication - A double-blind, randomized, controlled trial. Circulation. 1994 (Sept);90(3):1194-1199.

Checked 7/6/07

May 29th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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