Walking Towards Pain-Free Living

After a hip surgery in 2016, 66-year-old Pomona resident Sally Soverns had hoped she’d get back to an active lifestyle. However, a burning pain in her legs just 15 minutes into walking her dog now was forcing her to stop, sit and rest until the pain subsided. A day at the Los Angeles County Fair, one of her favorite pastimes, seemed completely out of the picture.

For years, Sally blamed her muscle pain on aging and being out of shape, but in the early spring of 2019, as her symptoms worsened, she’d had enough. She made an appointment with her primary care physician, who assessed her leg symptoms and ultimately determined she needed specialized care. Sally’s doctor referred her to Nitanth R. Vangala, MD, a cardiologist in Pomona. He performed an ultrasound and diagnosed her with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

PAD is a chronic circulatory condition in which plaque build-up in the arteries reduces blood flow to the muscles in the legs, arms, head and stomach. The condition affects more than 18 million people in the nation, according to the CardioVascular Coalition. Complications from PAD include an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and possible limb amputations. For Sally, PAD caused leg pain when walking due to less oxygenated blood being delivered to her exercising leg muscles. The burning pain in her legs would slowly resolve only when seated and reducing the demand on the muscles.

With this diagnosis, Dr. Vangala referred Sally to “PAD Rehab” at PVHMC, a new, medically-supervised exercise therapy program. During her first appointment, our Cardiovascular Rehabilitation team worked with her to develop an individualized exercise plan based on her specific medical history. The goal in Rehab was to slowly and methodically increase the demand on the muscles, allowing them to gradually adjust to the increased oxygen demands associated with walking longer distances.

So, three times a week for five weeks her exercise prescription subtlety increased. Sally participated in treadmill-walking, resistance training, and PAD education. Gradually, as her muscles became more fit, thus using the oxygen they do get more efficiently, she built better exercise tolerance allowing longer walks at a quicker pace. Within one week, Sally also noticed less pain with routine daily activities. And, as of May 31, Sally became our first graduate of the “PAD Rehab” program!

“I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you to my entire team of therapists,” says Sally. “They were extremely supportive in helping me get back to a life without pain and restrictions.”

PVHMC’s “PAD Rehab” program is a Supervised Exercise Therapy (SET) program, and is supported by the American Heart Association as a first line, noninvasive, low risk therapy for PAD and covered by Medicare.

For more information about our “PAD Rehab” program, please visit: www.pvhmc.org/cardiacrehab or call 909.865.9810.

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