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Are You Suffering From Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Updated on April 25, 2015

Uncomfortable Sensations in the Legs

If you are suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), you must be quite familiar with the uncomfortable sensations in your legs occurring while sitting or lying down and the irresistible urge to make some movement. This hub will take a brief look at this very frustrating and uneasy syndrome which physicians call the Restless Legs Syndrome.

RLS is characterized with unpleasant sensations in the legs when a person is lying still or sleeping.
RLS is characterized with unpleasant sensations in the legs when a person is lying still or sleeping. | Source

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome is characterized with strange and uncomfortable sensations in the legs while an individual is sitting still or lying down. As a result of these sensations, the individual often feels a strong urge to move his/her legs. Movement often makes the person feel better.

There are two types of RLS. The first type runs in families and begins before the age of 45. The symptoms of this type of RLS get worse and occur more often with age. The second type of RLS occurs after the age of 45, has a sudden onset, and the symptoms usually don’t get worse with age.

What are the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?

Patients of Restless Legs Syndrome often describe having unpleasant sensations in the legs including the feet, calves, thighs, and sometimes in the arms. These sensations are often described as creeping, crawling, itching, tingling, burning, aching, and as electric shocks. The sensations are usually felt as occurring somewhere deep within the legs.

There are four main characteristics that can be found in the signs and symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. These are:

  • The unpleasant sensations involved in RLS mostly begin or get worse during inactivity. Sitting still, resting, or lying down for long periods will bring on the symptoms.

  • The unpleasant sensations of Restless Legs Syndrome are accompanied with a strong urge to move. Movement usually relieves the symptoms and may be in the form of stretching, pacing, walking, jiggling the legs, exercising, or tossing and turning. RLS gets its name from this strong urge to move.

  • The symptoms get worse in the evening and at night. They are least in the morning.

  • Most people who have Restless Legs Syndrome also have Periodic Limb Movement in Sleep (PLMS). This condition is characterized by twitching or jerking of the legs or arms every 10 to 60 seconds while sleeping. This causes the individual to wake up often and is the main reason behind the sleep difficulties in patients of RLS.

What are the causes of Restless Leg Syndrome?

RLS can be hereditary. Stress and hormonal changes during pregnancy can also lead to the onset of the symptoms. Conditions such as peripheral neuropathy (damages to the nerves in the hands and feet) and iron deficiency in the brain due to disorders such as kidney failures, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis can also lead to Restless Legs Syndrome.

Certain medicines such as anti-nausea medications, anti-depressants, calcium channel blockers (used to treat heart problems and high BP), anti-psychotic drugs, and anti-histamine based allergy medications can also lead to RLS.

How is Restless Legs Syndrome diagnosed?

Your primary physician may be able to diagnose RLS or may refer you to a neurologist. The diagnosis is usually based on your symptoms, your family and medical history, and a physical examination to rule out other conditions.

How is Restless Legs Syndrome treated?

The treatment of RLS involves preventing and relieving its symptoms, improving the quality of sleep, and treating any underlying disorders that may worsen or trigger RLS.

Mild symptoms can be alleviated with the help of certain lifestyle changes such as taking warm baths or massages, practicing relaxation techniques, practicing good sleep habits, regular exercising, doing mentally challenging exercises especially in the evening, and regular walking.

If lifestyle changes do not help, your physician might prescribe medications. Medications used to treat Parkinson’s disease, medications for epilepsy, muscle relaxants, sleep medications, and opioids are effective in relieving these uncomfortable leg sensations as well.

Some over-the-counter medications may also help in relieving the symptoms of RLS.

Exercise for RLS

Learn about this condition as much as possible

Restless Legs Syndrome is often a lifelong condition and its symptoms may get worse with time or may disappear for long periods of time. Certain lifestyle changes and pain-relieving medications can help you lead a normal life. Regular visits to your physician, avoiding long periods of inactivity, and leading an active life can help dealing with this syndrome much easier.


National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

The Mayo Clinic


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