Banner Health Services  

Lying in bed hurts her legs


Kathy Maher is a registered Wound, Ostomy Continence Nurse specializing in Wounds and Ostomies at Banner Estrella Medical Center.

Question: I have been caring for my mother and I notice that she prefers to sleep in the recliner in her room instead of the bed. When I questioned her, she said lying in bed hurt her legs. Is this a serious problem? Should I mention it to her physician?

Answer: It sounds like your mother is having an arterial circulation problem to her lower extremities otherwise known as PAD (peripheral artery disease). This means her blood is not flowing freely to her lower legs and feet. This blockage can produce a throbbing sensation or pain in her lower legs with walking and leg elevation, such as when in bed. Your mother needs to see her physician as soon as possible.

More than likely, her physician will test her blood pressure in her arms and ankles to determine if her blood is circulating correctly. If her blood pressure in her legs is low, there are options that may help to alleviate the problem that include lifestyle changes, medications and/or surgery.

Circulation problems such as your mother’s are rarely linked to a single cause (such as lying in a bed). More often, they are associated with multiple risk factors. Smoking is the greatest risk factor for PAD. If she is a smoker, quitting will help ease the pain significantly. Hypertension is another risk factor as well as elevated cholesterol levels (LDLs).  Diabetes mellitus is another common prognostic variable.

A healthy diet and exercise of any kind, even if minimal, may help your mother. Unfortunately, with this type of circulation problem, walking can become difficult. She should try walking 10 minutes a day. After two weeks, have her add 5 minutes, continuing until her next physician visit. In addition, her physician will probably set goals of normalizing her blood pressure, normalizing her blood sugars levels, normalizing her serum cholesterol levels, and eliminating tobacco use. Your mother must keep herself hydrated, to reduce thickness of her blood. She must avoid cold, caffeine and constrictive garments. She must maintain a normal body weight for her height and age.

If these non-surgical options don’t work, her physician may recommend medication or surgery, such as revascularization. Revascularization surgery involves using the patient’s saphenous vein, otherwise known as the main vein in your mother’s leg. If this vein is blocked, the doctor may take a vein from elsewhere in the body or choose to use a donor vein or a synthetic vein. This surgery involves hospitalization and should provide almost immediate relief to your mother.

Page Last Modified: 02/22/2010
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