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Rehab program helps patients improve the symptoms of peripheral artery disease

Heart Health
Apr 9, 2019

Savannah woman walking longer distances thanks to PAD rehab program at St. Joseph’s/Candler

Just a few months ago, the thought of walking any distance, especially with an incline, was virtually impossible for Madeline Henry.

Madeline, 74, suffers from peripheral artery disease. PAD occurs when plaque builds up in the walls of the peripheral arteries, narrowing those arteries and therefore reducing or blocking the flow of blood to the body’s limbs. It can cause intense pain in the extremities, especially the legs and feet.

Related Article: Consistent cramping in your calf? You may want to be checked for peripheral arterial disease.

Madeline Henry, PAD rehab patientFor Madeline, she was experiencing constant numbness and stinging in her feet. Her doctor couldn’t find a pulse in her left foot and recommended PAD rehab. Madeline began rehab through St. Joseph’s/Candler Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation on Dec. 27, 2018.

St. Joseph’s/Candler Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation has outpatient rehab programs for cardiac, PAD and pulmonary patients that include exercise, education, counseling and ways to live a healthy lifestyle.

Madeline saw a difference just a few weeks into the program. During the course of the 12 weeks she was in rehab, Madeline went from just a few minutes on the treadmill to 10 to 20, and upon graduation, she was up to 30 minutes walking on a treadmill with inclines.

“Walking and other general activities of daily living aren’t quite as painful now,” she says.

Madeline’s not alone. Other participants see improvements in quality of life thanks to the PAD rehab program. One patient was able to walk Disney World with the grandchildren instead of being wheelchair-bound.

“This program is making a huge difference with the patients we’ve had,” says Justine Hardy, M.S., health educator for St. Joseph’s/Candler Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation. “They’ve been able to walk with their children and grandchildren, clean their floors and do the activities of daily living with less pain.”

About PAD rehab at St. Joseph’s/Candler

St. Joseph’s/Candler started its PAD rehab program in July 2018. It begins with 36 sessions that must be completed within a 12 week timeframe. At that point, if the patient is progressing and been compliant with the program, another 36 sessions over 12 weeks will be covered, Hardy says.

Most sessions are an hour long and include a combination of cardiovascular exercises. However, the focus is walking on the treadmill, particularly on an incline. Unlike traditional cardiac rehab, PAD rehab is a weight-bearing program.

“Walking on an incline helps create collaterals around the blockage,” Hardy explains. “Just like in your heart, your body tries to create blood vessels on its own to help go around a blockage and create vascular to help get oxygen to that part of the body.”

Related Article: Outpatient cardiac rehab program helps Savannah man lose the cane, gain strength 

The goal is to reach 40 minutes on the treadmill. Patients start off gradually and work up to 40 minutes, or whatever they can handle, Hardy says. “They do have the toughest protocol of all our patients because they have to do hills, so it is tough.”

In addition to the treadmill, patients will use other equipment, such as the Nu-Step, an arm rowing machine. While it’s important to do weight-bearing exercises to help with the symptoms of PAD, it’s also important to do general cardio exercises, Hardy says, because PAD patients are at risk for cardiovascular disease as well.

A physician’s referral is required to participate in the PAD rehab program. The cardio pulmonary rehab team can help get a referral, Hardy says. She also points out that PAD rehab is for anyone suffering with the disease, regardless of how long or short you’ve had it.

“If you have pain in your legs and you know you have a blockage from your doctor’s diagnosis, certainly get a referral and come,” Hardy says. “I think the toughest barrier is getting over that pain threshold. Even when you think you can’t do it, you can, and we’re here for you.”

Madeline Henry plans to keep exercising now that’s she graduated from PAD rehab. She encourages anyone suffering from PAD to give rehab a try.

“I feel much better,” she says. “Everyone here is extremely nice from the staff to the fellow patients. They are very cordial and very courageous.”  

For more information about St. Joseph’s/Candler Cardio Pulmonary Rehabilitation, call 912-819-7340 or visit our website.

Related Article: Pulmonary rehab can be a breath of fresh air for patients with lung conditions

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