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Restless Leg Syndrome - Causes - Treatment

Updated on June 6, 2015

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder in which there is an urge or need to move the legs to stop unpleasant sensations. It is very uncomfortable while you are sitting or lying down, then you have the urge to get up and move

Dog needs a Sofa

source Flickr
source Flickr

RLS Facts

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can begin at any age, and it usually worsens as you grow older. It is estimated that 10% of the population has RLS and women are affected more often than men. It typically starts off slowly and increases through the years with the greatest number of people effected being over 65. It can interfere with your sleep, so sleep disorders are common with this disease. It can make traveling difficult or sitting through a movie or play. Typically symptoms are worse in the evening

Symptoms of Restless Leg Symptoms

The commonly described symptoms of restless leg are tingling, cramping, crawling, creeping, pulling, painful, electric, tense, uncomfortable, itchy, tugging, gnawing, aching and burning. This is quite a list! Some people refer to this disease as nervous leg syndrome. People perceive discomfort in different ways but all of these descriptions are from people with RLS.

The symptoms start especially when you aren’t active, when you have been sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. Movement gives some relief. There are number of ways that people try to stop the sensation, such as, stretching, jiggling their legs, pacing the floor, exercising or walking.

Legs

source Commons Wikimedia
source Commons Wikimedia

Periodic Limb Movement

There is another medical condition called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS) which may be associated with restless leg syndrome. This other condition causes flexing and extending your legs while sleeping and you are not aware, however, if you sleep with someone else they would probably become aware of this continual movement.

If you have a severe cause of this disease you will do involuntary kicking movements while you are awake. PLMS is common in older adults and more than 4 out of 5 people with RLS also have experienced PLMS

Restless leg syndrome

Attractive Legs

source Flickr
source Flickr

Most people with RLS never get any medical treatment as they really don’t want to go to the doctor and try to explain their problem, or they fear they won’t be taken seriously. Some doctors may attribute these symptoms to nervousness or stress.

There is no known cause but researches think it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, with the brain’s chemical dopamine. It does tend to run in families. Pregnancy and hormonal changes can worsen the symptoms as well. Peripheral neuropathy which is damage to the peripheral nerves in the feet can cause RLS, and this is due to diabetes or alcoholism. Iron deficiency can also worsen the symptoms, and kidney failure is also a causative factor. Other possible causes are obesity, smoking and a nerve disease that is associated with hypothyroidism. Toxicity due to heavy metals may also cause the disease.

Legs Causing Insomnia

source life123
source life123

Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

The treatment for restless leg syndrome is first directed at any possible underlying illness.

Other treatments:

  • Stopping smoking and exercise will help provide relief.
  • These are some of the medications for restless legs:
  • Carbidopa-levodopa
  • Opiods (propoxyphene) or tramadol (Ultram)
  • Clonazepam, diazepam (Valium), triazolam, temazepam, (muscle relaxers)
  • Bromocriptine and clonidine
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin) recently has been found helpful
  • FDA newly approved for RLS ropinirole (Requip) and pramipexole (Mirapex)

Other helpful restless leg syndrome treatments are avoiding caffeine, warm/cold baths, electric nerve stimulation, oral magnesium and acupuncture

How to Treat Restless Legs Syndrome : Massage Treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome

To summarize, RLS is a leg disorder that is painful an unpleasant, if frequently leads to insomnia and the cause is really not known.  Treatment first looks at any other possible underlying diseases that may be causing this problem.  There is medication available to give you relief.

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  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

    molometer, It is such a difficult problem to treat that sometimes walking does relieve the discomfort. I agree that good sleep is very important. Thank you so much for your comments.

  • molometer profile image

    molometer 4 years ago

    Very well written and researched article Pamela, this restless leg syndrome is a reason for so many sleepless nights as you mentioned.

    I like the NHS doctors advice. 'Get up and walk around'. Not what someone would want to do when they need to sleep.

    Good sleep as we know is so very important.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 4 years ago from United States

    Cam8510, Yes, I knew they just changed the name in February to Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED) Foundation. I wrote this article quite some time ago. Thanks for your comments, and I will check out your hub.

  • cam8510 profile image

    Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

    Pamela, I ran across your article when I posted one of my own on RLS just a couple of hours ago. You are most likely aware of it, but the new name for RLS is now in place. The RLS foundation in Rochester, Minnesota has also changed its name to coincide. Here is the URL to my latest story in case you want to check it out. http://hub.me/af2Q8

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Support Med, Thanks so much for your comments.

  • Support Med. profile image

    Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

    This is good information. Thanks for sharing. Since magnesium is good for RLS, looks like drinking milk and taking supplements is a good idea. Will keep as a reference. Voted and rated.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Darski, I hope this will be helpful for your friend.

    Thanks so much for your comments. Hugs to you.

  • Darlene Sabella profile image

    Darlene Sabella 6 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

    Major important hub my lovely Pam, my neighbor has this and walks her dog all the time, she even walks at night. I feel so sorry for her. This is a must read for all and an well written and wise advise, awesome hub. I rate this up and well send to my friend, and twit this. Love darksi

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    PhoenixV, I'm sorry to hear you have to suffer with RLS. Thanks for sharing your comments.

  • PhoenixV profile image

    PhoenixV 6 years ago from USA

    I voted up! Thanks Pamela, I get RLS and cant stand it. Its weird how something like this can be so annoying and frustrating when you need sleep. Thanks so much great topic and information!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Tina, Thank you for your information as I didn't find that in my research. I appreciate your comments.

  • TINA V profile image

    TINA V 6 years ago

    This is a topic that most often being disregard by many without realizing that it can lead to other health problems. You've shared information that would let us all understand RLS.

    I've read in an article before that aside from pregnancy, another cause of it can also be hereditary. It may run in the families especially if this disorder started at an early age. It also mentioned that kidney failure and iron deficiency may worsen RLS. The patient should try to cutback or stop using caffeine, alcohol or tobacco to help relieve pain.

    Have a great week!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Love to Read, I think pregnancy is a common time for this disease to start. Valium is a muscle relaxer so I would think it would help. I pray this won't get any worse for you as I know it can drive you nuts. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  • Loves To Read profile image

    Loves To Read 6 years ago

    Great topic Pamela, i first started with RLS when i was pregnant and used to have to get up and walk around. Over the years it has become worse. I tend to get it more when i am over tired or sitting for extended periods of time. Such as long car trips.

    My Doctor prescribed me valium which i only take when i really need to. Thanks for sharing.

    Love and Blessings

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Audry, Thanks for the comment. My sister has this problem and it is aggravating. As it Griffin that is just too funny!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

    Great info on a very aggravating problem, Pamela. I know some folks who have this and it can be really annoying trying to get comfortable - hence the insomnia.

    As a side note, I am NOT showing this pic of the dog to Griffin because he will only get MORE ideas on how to be lounging about after one of his snacks from my kitchen counters!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Prasetio, Thank you so much for your comment. You are always so kind.

  • prasetio30 profile image

    prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

    Dear, Pamela. You always bringing valuable information like this one. Actually I never knew about this before. But again, I learn much from you. Vote up as usual.

    Prasetio

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Kanav, Thank you for your excellent suggestion and your comments.

  • Kanav profile image

    Kanav 6 years ago from Matrix

    Nice article Pamela. I would like to advocate the usage of Mahanarayana Oil / Ashwagandha oil or even the humble Sesame Oil as daily self massage before bath. Apply it for 30 minutes and then shower it off.

    It helps. Cheers!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    drpastorcarlotta, Stretching periodically might also help Thanks for your comment.

  • drpastorcarlotta profile image

    Pastor Dr. Carlotta Boles 6 years ago from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC

    There you go again with great informational health advice! I thought something was wrong with my legs and I told my doctor and he told me I needed to exercise more! lol, lol, lol, I sit at my computer a lot! lol, lol, I voted-up!!

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Hello, I appreciate your comment as always.

    JY, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you for your comment.

  • JY3502 profile image

    John Young 6 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

    Good hub Pamela. You do good work!

  • Hello, hello, profile image

    Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

    Thank you, Pamela, for such a splendid and helpful article.

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Quill, I hope Mrs. Quill gets a medication that works. Thank you for your comment.

    Chris, Thanks for your comment.

  • carolina muscle profile image

    carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

    This was an interesting article, Pamela, thanks!!!

  • profile image

    "Quill" 6 years ago

    Hi Pam...

    Sent this one to Mrs. Quill who has this, she has been taking a drug called Requip... now it is all but gone... terrible affliction...

    Hugs

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    I'm glad you found the hub helpful, although it sounds like you know what to do when it happens. I'm glad your case is mild. Thanks for your comment.

  • saddlerider1 profile image

    saddlerider1 6 years ago

    I love the picture of that totally relaxed dog, he sure doesn't appear to have any leg problems the way he is stretched out to the max:0))

    I get it periodically and I have to get up and walk around a bit in the middle of the night, I find if I lean against a wall and stretch for a bit it goes away.

    Thank goodness I don't get it to often, the massage therapy video was excellent and that certainly helps for sure. Great hub and great information much appreciated. I rate it UP

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    drbj, As always I appreciate your comments.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 6 years ago from south Florida

    It looks like restless leg syndrome can be very hazardous to the health . . . of your partner.

    Thanks for the interesting explanations, Pamela. Love the tired dog photo. Used the same pic in my hub "Photos of Really Tied Animals."

  • Pamela99 profile image
    Author

    Pamela Oglesby 6 years ago from United States

    Tom, It is really good that you can control the discomfort that way. I appreciate your comments.

    Coolmon Thanks so much for your comment and the tweet.

    Dusty, I know people that us that for rest but I didn't see it on the drugs listed for RLS. Thanks so much for your comment.

    Diamond, It seems that quite often there is a price to be paid for taking medications and we all have different tolerances. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  • DiamondRN profile image

    Bob Diamond RPh 6 years ago from Charlotte, NC USA

    I had something similar to RLS periodically, until I finally realized that it was due to a side-effect of Benadryl. I can take 25mg, but 50mg is a no-no for me. Apparently it is due, in my case, to vaso-constrictive oxygen depletion associated with anti-histaminic effects.

  • 50 Caliber profile image

    50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

    Pamela, great hub on a real topic, just ask me :) I didn't see it but the drug Amitryptalyne at bedtime rocks, 50

  • Coolmon2009 profile image

    Coolmon2009 6 years ago from Texas, USA

    Good information on restless leg syndrome. I will tweet this article.

  • Tom Whitworth profile image

    Tom Whitworth 6 years ago from Moundsville, WV

    Pamela,

    Many of these symptoms of RLS are similar to those I experience from the HN in my legs from shingles and I find self hypnosis and relaxation therapy work for me.