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Vascular claudication is painful cramping in the calves, thighs, or buttocks, when your muscles don't get enough blood. It is brought on by walking or other exercise, and relieved by rest. The condition is often a symptom of peripheral artery disease.

Research that supports supervised exercise therapy by a physical therapist to relieve claudication is robust. A new study offers yet another reason to choose or recommend physical therapy in treating claudication — the overall value it provides.

Physical therapy treatment for claudication outperforms typical care alone. In addition to saving on health care dollars, physical therapy also helps patients to:

  • Reduce pain and cramping due to restricted blood flow.
  • Avoid unnecessary and costly invasive procedures and surgeries.
  • Improve their quality of life by increasing their walking distance.
  • Avoid the risks of taking medications.

You do not need a physician's referral* to see a physical therapist in the United States. Visit Find a PT to search for a physical therapist in your area. 

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Learn more about how a physical therapist can help in the Benefits of Physical Therapy.

Graphic illustration of the claudication findings from the Economic Value of Physical Therapy Report

Researchers calculated the economic impact of choosing physical therapy over alternatives to treat claudication. They found that doing so saves $24,125, including all the hidden costs of your time, pain, missed life events, and the dollars paid for services. This graphic summarizes their analysis, outlined in an easy-to-read paper covering this and seven other conditions.

Health care dollars are finite. This research can help to influence policies that better enable patient access to treatment options. It also may lead to health plan coverage that is both clinically effective and value-based. Patients and the health care system benefit when our health care dollars go further.

Physical therapists are movement experts. They improve quality of life through hands-on care, patient education, and prescribed movement. 

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*Your insurance policy, corporate policies, or state practice laws may still require a referral. Some states may limit the type or duration of treatment without a referral.


View additional Did You Know? articles on all eight conditions on our Value of Physical Therapy page.

Additional Resources

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The Economic Value of Physical Therapy in the United States," a report from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Jansen SCP, Hoeks SE, Nyklíček I, et al. Supervised exercise therapy is effective for patients with intermittent claudication regardless of psychological constructs. Eur J Vasc Endovasc Surg. 2022;63(3):438–445. Article Summary on PubMed.

Hageman D, van den Houten MM, Spruijt S, et al. Supervised exercise therapy: it does work, but how to set up a program? J Cardiovasc Surg (Torino). 2017;58(2):305–312. Article Summary on PubMed.

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