Everything You Need To Know About Restless Legs Syndrome

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What is restless legs syndrome?

A person who suffers from restless legs syndrome experiences feelings of twitching, itching, burning, and tingling in the legs. The sensations usually occur when the person is resting, and are mostly worse at night when in bed.

The discomfort is only eased by constant rubbing and moving the legs, which has led RLS to be considered a sleep disorder, as the condition causes many folk to suffer from insomnia.

In spite of much research, no cure for RLS has been found, although there are some treatments recommended which may help relieve the condition.

 

What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?

  • The symptoms of RLS can vary from person to person, and so can the severity of the burning, itching, and other sensations.
  • The symptoms are generally worse in the evenings when you may be at rest, or very often when you get into bed.
  • The irritating and uncomfortable feelings can cause some serious sleep deprivation that will have a negative effect on your quality of life.
  • The lack of sleep can lead to daytime irritability, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating in the workplace.
  • You may also experience unpleasant discomfort when sitting in a confined space like an airplane seat, at the movies, or as a passenger on a road trip.
  • If you already suffer from RLS and fall pregnant, note that the symptoms tend to worsen during pregnancy especially over the last 3 months.

Symptoms of RLS usually get worse as time goes by, but studies have shown that for some people a period of months may pass without any symptoms.

 

Causes of restless legs syndrome

To date doctors have no clear idea what causes the RLS, but as research have indicated that about 50% of sufferers have family members with the condition, they suspect that genetics may play a role.

There are also certain medical conditions which may be linked to RLS. These include:

  • Varicose veins
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Possible malfunction in the brain chemicals that help to regulate muscle movements.
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies which may impede healthy blood flow, are also contenders.
  • Certain kinds of medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure meds, and anti-nausea drugs.
  • While pregnancy itself is not a cause, RLS sometimes develops during pregnancy, possibly due to hormonal and weight changes. However, the symptoms usually disappear about a month after delivery.

Although the causes are not known, diagnosis of RLS is mostly based on the patient’s symptoms.

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Treatment for restless legs syndrome

There is no official treatment for RLS, although some medications are prescribed to help relieve symptoms. These include FDA approved dopaminergic drugs such as those used to treat Parkinson’s disease, certain sedative meds, and narcotic pain relievers in extreme cases.

In mild cases, anti-inflammatory medications have also been known to improve symptoms.

However like most drugs, the meds may have side effects which could cause drowsiness during the day. This would not be an ideal situation.

 

Natural remedies

The treatment for RLS is basically targeted at easing the symptoms. In many cases some lifestyle changes like following a healthy diet, getting some exercise, cutting down on caffeine and alcohol intake have helped to reduce the symptoms.

Several studies have also shown that people with RLS have often shown a vitamin and mineral deficiency, and although more research is needed, certain foods or maybe supplements, are believed to help control the very distressing symptoms.

Here are some vitamins and minerals you may need to get into your system:

  • Iron is necessary for good, rich blood flow especially to the extremities like the legs. Foods rich in iron include:
  • Liver, meat, and fish
  • Iron fortified cereals and eggs
  • Beans, nuts, and seeds
  • Dried fruit like apricots, prunes, and raisins
  • Magnesium helps to relax the muscles and prevent cramps, spasms, and tics. Foods high in magnesium include wholegrains such as brown rice, beans, nuts, and plenty of green leafy vegetables.
  • Vitamin B12 and omega 3 both help to curb muscle pain, boost the mood, and help the nervous system to function properly. Foods include :
  • Beef liver, lamb or mutton
  • Fatty fish like sardines, tuna, mackerel, and salmon
  • Feta cheese and leafy green veggies such as spinach

If your diet is somewhat challenged and you are unable to get some of these foods in sufficient quantities in your diet, there are excellent natural supplements available. However, do take care if taking an iron supplement – it can sometimes cause severe constipation.

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Home treatments

Here are some home treatments which may also help ease symptoms:

  • Massaging your calf muscles just before bedtime may help to relive pain and twitches, and allow you to get some peaceful sleep.
  • A specially designed brush for the legs which helps to stimulate the blood flow, is available from health stores. This can be used as many times per day as you feel necessary.
  • A warm shower or bath before bedtime will also help ease systems by getting the blood flowing.
  • Regular exercise during the day may help. A short walk in the evening, some yoga or stretching before bed, could also do the trick.
  • Stress and anxiety tend to worsen the symptoms, and finding some natural ways to reduce stress can put an end to a distressing cycle of anxiety and symptoms. There are foods which help with anxiety, and also natural supplements with no side effects which can help you keep calm.

Deep breathing exercises and positive affirmations can help to relieve stress as well.

 

Finally…

Because there is no medical cure for RLS, most treatments are aimed at reducing the symptoms.

 

READ ALSO: Tired Legs? This Yoga Sequence Will Help Video

 

Many successes have been reported regarding natural and home-grown treatments, but without exception these have not been cures, but rather successes in managing and controlling symptoms.

Research is ongoing, and experts agree that when a definite cause of the condition is firmly established, effective treatment which could lead to a complete cure of RLS, will surely soon follow.

References:

www.helpguide.org

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov