Vascular Pain

Vascular pain is pain caused by issues with blood flow. It’s usually a symptom of a vascular disease, which affects your blood vessels. You may also have numbness, tingling, swelling or discoloration in your hands and feet. Fortunately, treatment can help relieve pain and improve your quality of life.


What is vascular pain?

Vascular pain is discomfort caused by issues with your circulation. If you experience unexplained leg pain or heaviness, it could be vascular pain. It usually affects your lower legs or ankles, although it may also affect your arms or hands.

Another name for vascular pain that affects your legs is vascular claudication. Vascular pain is less common in your arms, but it still affects around 1 in 10 people who have vascular pain.

What does vascular pain feel like?

Vascular pain often feels like an uncomfortable heaviness or throbbing sensation. It can also feel like an aching sensation. It usually affects your legs and can be worse with walking or exerting yourself.

Who is most likely to experience vascular pain?

People with vascular diseases are most likely to experience vascular pain. Vascular diseases are more common in adults over 50 and people who:


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes vascular pain?

Vascular pain is usually the result of a vascular disease. Vascular diseases may compress or inflame your blood vessels (vasculitis). Or you may have a narrowed or blocked blood vessel, which reduces blood flow.

Some of the most common causes of vascular pain include:

What are the symptoms of vascular conditions?

If you have a vascular disease, you may experience vascular pain along with:


Diagnosis and Tests

How is vascular pain diagnosed?

To diagnose vascular pain, your healthcare provider will ask you about your symptoms and perform a physical exam. They often look for physical signs of vascular diseases, such as discoloration, weeping, ulcers or a weak pulse in your arm or lower leg.

Your provider may also use tests that assess your blood flow, including:

  • Arteriogram: They inject a special dye into your blood vessels, then use an X-ray to examine how the dye moves through your arteries and veins.
  • Doppler ultrasound: They use sound waves to look at the speed and direction of blood flow through your body.
  • Magnetic resonance angiogram: Your provider uses magnets and radio waves (MRIs) to look at your blood flow. These tests may also use a contrast dye to highlight your arteries and veins.

Management and Treatment

How is vascular pain treated?

Treatment for vascular pain depends on your specific symptoms and the underlying cause of pain. Your provider may recommend:

  • Medications: Medicines to lower blood pressure, thin your blood or prevent blood clots may treat vascular disease and resolve pain.
  • Angioplasty: Your provider uses a small, hollow tube (catheter) and a balloon to open a blocked artery. They may also place a small mesh tube called a stent to help keep your blood vessel open long-term.
  • Bypass surgery: A surgeon takes a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body and creates a new route for blood flow. This new route bypasses your blocked or damaged blood vessel.


How do you relieve vascular pain?

Vascular pain can disrupt your daily activities. But there are several steps you can take to manage pain, including:

  • Exercise regularly, aiming for at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week.
  • Get up and move or stretch at least once an hour during your workday, especially if you have a sedentary job.
  • Wear compression stockings, particularly if you stand for long periods or are traveling on a long trip. Compression stockings are special socks that provide gentle pressure to your ankles and feet.


How can I reduce my risk of vascular pain?

You can reduce your risk of vascular pain by taking steps to prevent vascular diseases, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Managing your blood pressure and cholesterol with the help of your healthcare provider.
  • Quitting smoking or avoiding starting.
  • Aggressively treating any underlying conditions, such as diabetes, that could increase your risk of vascular disease.

Outlook / Prognosis

What can I expect if I have vascular pain?

Vascular diseases can be lifelong conditions. But you can manage them with medical treatment and lifestyle changes. Adopting healthier habits and treating any underlying diseases can reduce pain and allow you to participate in your usual activities.

Living With

What questions should I ask my doctor?

If you have vascular pain or think you could, you may also want to ask your healthcare provider:

  • What are the early signs of vascular pain?
  • What does vascular pain feel like?
  • What are the possible causes of vascular pain?
  • What are the treatments for vascular pain?
  • Do I need treatment for an underlying vascular disease?
  • What can I do to manage vascular pain at home?

Additional Common Questions

What is vasculitis? Can vasculitis cause chest pain?

Vasculitis is a condition of inflammation in your blood vessels. It’s one of the possible causes of vascular pain. Some types of vasculitis can cause stiffness and neck pain. It can also cause chest pain, along with:

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you have periodic discomfort in your lower legs or arms, it could be vascular pain. Vascular pain arises from problems with your blood vessels and blood flow. If you feel vascular pain, it’s usually the result of a vascular disease. You might also have swelling, numbness or a tingling sensation along with pain. The good news is that a variety of lifestyle changes and medical treatments can reduce pain, helping you get back to your usual activities.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 09/16/2022.

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