The inability to walk as far and as long as you'd like to can be frustrating and even depressing. It may also be a sign your body is giving you to alert you of a health problem. Two causes of leg weakness after walking a short distance may be spinal stenosis or peripheral artery disease, especially as you age.
If you can walk only a short distance before experiencing leg weakness, you could have spinal stenosis. This is a condition in which the opening that your spine passes through is narrowing, which causes compression on the nerve. If the portion of the spine that provides stimulation to your legs is affected, you may experience weakness, tingling or discomfort in your legs, particularly as you walk.
You and your doctor can decide the best course of treatment for your spinal stenosis, if you are diagnosed. Physical therapy is a healthy and safe option. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to maintain flexibility and range of motion to affected limbs. He can also provide exercises that help to open up the spinal column, which can ease your pain and make walking a more enjoyable experience.
Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral artery disease may make it difficult for you to walk long distances. This condition occurs when the blood vessels that supply your leg muscles with blood and oxygen become narrowed. This makes it difficult to give your working muscles the nutrients they need, especially when you are using them, which can lead to pain and weakness of the muscle. Arteriosclerosis, or plaque buildup, causes the narrowing of your artery.
Physical activity may be enough to improve your symptoms. Your body may be able to adapt by finding a way to supply your muscles with blood by routing blood flow around the occlusion. Regular activity involving working to volitional fatigue, then resting until you are ready to work again, can help improve your circulation. If your condition is beyond physical therapy, your doctor may recommend a more invasive course of action, such as surgery.
If you are generally a sedentary person, your leg weakness may just be from deconditioned muscles. Regular exercise, such as 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days per week as recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association, can keep your body and muscles fit, strong and working well. However, before you start exercising, always gain medical clearance from your physician. He can rule out any underlying conditions that may be a cause of your pain or problems during activity.