Treating Restless Leg Syndrome

Written by April Reinhardt (last updated September 5, 2008)

Do your legs sometimes have a creepy-crawly feeling? I'm talking about that pins-and-needles sensation you get when your hand "falls asleep" after leaning on it for a length of time. Do you feel numbness, tingling, and an urge to move, even though you've just walked around the park for fifteen minutes? If so, you may have Restless Leg Syndrome.

A sensory disorder, Restless Leg Syndrome causes an almost irresistible urge to move your legs. It is also considered a sleep disorder because of sleep pattern interruptions caused by the need to move, thus causing lack of sleep. Symptoms are generally worse at night than in the morning. While legs are mostly affected by the syndrome, upper limbs may also be involved. In most severe cases, Restless Leg Syndrome causes involuntary, jerking limb movements and can lead to another disorder known as Periodic Limb Movement Disorder.

Restless Leg Syndrome is not a new condition. Originally named Reflex Action by Sir Thomas Willis in the 17th century, and then later in the 1940's commonly referred to as Ekbom's Disease, Restless Leg Syndrome affects approximately eight percent of the US population, mostly female. Recent evidence suggests that Restless Leg Syndrome worsens with age, and some recognized contributing factors are:

  • Above average body mass
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Lower income persons
  • Diabetes

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome may frequently come and go. Patients have reported that their symptoms have completely disappeared for months or years at a time, and then manifest again unexpectedly. Although Restless Leg Syndrome is often a lifelong condition, managing flare-ups and treating the syndrome can be uncomplicated, practical, and bring great relief. Some treatments include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Developing a regular sleep pattern, avoiding naps
  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol and caffeine before sleeping
  • Using hot packs, cold packs, or cold baths
  • Stretching

Restless Leg Syndrome affects different people differently; some people manage the syndrome with lifestyle changes, while others require prescription medication to ease the symptoms. Some underlying conditions may cause Restless Leg Syndrome, and those can include diabetes, kidney disease, and iron deficiency. Health care professionals then treat those disorders and reevaluate the patient's syndrome to determine if treating one disorder affects the outcome of the Restless Leg Syndrome flare-ups.

If you have frequent bouts of Restless Leg Syndrome, talk with your doctor about implementing positive lifestyle changes to ease or stop symptoms. Your health care professional may prescribe medications to ease the pain, but remember that those lifestyle changes will address the syndrome.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...


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