Intermittent claudication from peripheral vascular disease is sometimes difficult to distinguish from similar claudication due to degenerative disease of the lumbar spine. In the present study 26 patients with vascular disease were compared with 23 patients with lumbar degenerative disease. Assessment was by clinical and radiological examination. In the vascular group characteristic distinguishing features were: abnormal foot pulses, arterial bruits, relief of symptoms by standing, a constant claudicating distance and stocking sensory loss. In the lumbar group typical findings were: discomfort on lifting, bending, coughing or sneezing, pain on standing, history of back injury, variable claudicating distance and segmental sensory loss.