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How to Better Help Your RestLess Legs Syndrome

How to Better Help Your RestLess Legs Syndrome

Do you have the urge to move your legs because of unpleasant feelings in them?

Does the urge to move increase if you are resting or sitting down?

Do the unpleasant feelings decrease or go away when you move your legs?

Are the unpleasant feelings and the urge to move worse in the evening and night?

If you have answered yes to these questions, you may be suffering from a condition called Restless Legs Syndrome. [1]

Tips on taming your legs
Trying to tame your legs

You may not be familiar with the actual term Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). If not, let me start by defining it for you: It is a medical condition characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs, including burning, tugging, and tightening, and feels “like insects crawling inside the legs,” according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).[2]

In this post you’ll learn how to better help your restless legs syndrome

“ I call it an electric current going from the knees, down the leg and finally out the toe ( and then the toe jerks), and then it starts all over again….. that is if I can hold still that long!!!”—RSL sufferer-forum for RLS

Tips on pain in the legs
What pain in the legs looks like

These feelings only occur when patients are resting, mostly in the evenings and during sleep.

Tips on dealing with Restless Legs Syndrome
Dealing with Restless Legs Syndrome

These unpleasant feelings go away when people move their legs. Patients with RLS have a strong urge to keep moving their legs. Patients say they cannot resist the urge to keep moving their legs. When sleeping, leg twitching is common.

The reason I wanted to define it is because many people, according to a survey conducted by the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation (RLSF), not only found that more than half of those who responded had never heard of RLS, but also found that many did not fully understand the impact that the condition can have on daily life.

Now that you know what RLS means, let me share with you how a certain group of people are using life style changes and medications to treat RLS – and how you can too. Read on for the eye-opening details…

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

It is thought that the cause may be a slight lack of, or imbalance of, some brain chemicals (neurotransmitters), especially one called dopamine. It is not known why this should occur. There may be some genetic factor, as primary RLS runs in some families. About 2-4 adults in 100 have some degree of RLS. It can affect anyone and can first develop at any age. It is more common as you become older, however. Women are affected twice as much as men.

What is life like With RLS?

One support group member, making initial inquiries, states the following:

“…I just get it all throughout my entire body and it won’t stop until I move around, and it gets worse and builds in intensity the longer I try not to move. It doesn’t hurt though, it’s just SUCH a terrible, annoying, weird feeling that just builds up. I know this won’t make sense (it just registers in my mind like this for some reason), but it feels like a, uh, metallic feeling? like if you lick or bite metal? That taste/feeling in your mouth. But that same feeling as if it’s running through all my veins. ITS SO WEIRD, I know. And it seems to mainly happen at times when I have to/feel like I have to sit still. Like, when I’m sitting in class or if I’m in bed with someone else and we’re going to sleep. It doesn’t ALWAYS happen, but sometimes. I really want to know what it is. Because it makes it impossible to fall asleep, no matter how tired I am.” [3]

Restless leg Syndrome Can Hit Home Quickly

Imagine sitting in a theater and watching a great show, then suddenly you feel a tingling or tightening in your legs. You need to get up and move your legs. So you quickly  leave the theater, missing out on another amazing evening.

Or

You and your friend are riding in his new hot wheels around town, than suddenly you tell him to stop the car because you “need to get out and take a walk.” Talk about a strained friendship?

The bottom line: Restless legs syndrome causes uncomfortable feelings in your legs. As a result, you have an urge to move your legs which gives temporary relief.

It can also ruin relationships. After all, you significant  other won’t think it’s funny that you keep kicking them in the  middle of the night.

So of course you want to find treatment for this condition. This is what we’ll look at now.

You can try to prevent RLS symptoms by:

  • Avoiding (or limiting your intake of) caffeine, tobacco, which are common triggers of RLS symptoms
  • Making sure you’re getting enough iron in your diet or by taking supplements (some studies have linked iron deficiency to RLS)
  • Exercising regularly
  • Engaging your mind with distracting activities (such as talking to people, needlework, or video games) when you have to remain seated
  • If possible, raise your desktop so you can work and read standing up.
  • When possible, take the stairs. Park your car some distance to increase walking.
  • Taking hot or cold showers may reduce your symptoms. Rubbing cream or gel on your legs before going to bed may reduce symptoms.
  • When traveling, take morning flights. Explain to flight attendants that you need to move around so your legs don’t bother you. [4]

It’s possible that the steps mentioned above may still not be enough. In that case, your your doctor may suggest medication.

Tips on pills for RLS
Pills for RLS

Dopamine agonists are the most commonly used medicines to treat RLS. There are various types and brands. Dopamine agonists in effect top up a low level of dopamine which is thought to be lacking in people with RLS. Dopamine agonist medicines used to treat RLS include pramipexole, ropinirole and rotigotine. There is a good chance that symptoms will go or greatly reduce in severity if you take one of these medicines.

As with any medication, the benefit of treatment has to be weighed against the possible side-effects of treatment. The most common side-effects of these medicines are feeling sick (nausea), light-headedness, tiredness and difficulty with sleep. However, many people do not experience any side-effects, or they are mild, and the side-effects often go away with continued use.

That said, one should still use caution. for example,here are the suggested steps if one is using Ropinirole:

Before Taking Ropinirole For  RestLess Leg Syndrome

Some medicines are not suitable for people with certain conditions, and sometimes a medicine can only be used if extra care is taken. For these reasons, before you start taking Ropinirole it is important that your doctor knows:

  • If you are you are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • If you have a heart condition or a blood vessel disorder.
  • If you have ever had a mental health problem such as psychosis.
  • If you are taking or using any other medicines. This includes any medicines you are taking which are available to buy without a prescription, such as herbal and complementary medicines
  • If you have ever had an allergic reaction to a medicine [5]

Conclusion

While you certainly have learned a lot about RLS in this post, we’ve only really just scratched the surface when it comes to the larger, overall topic. And that’s why I’d like to conclude by pointing out a few resources you can use to help you learn more about RLS.

If you want to keep in the know about the latest developments on RLS, -then you’ll want to read:

Talk About Sleep This is a new site devoted to all aspects of sleep including RLS.

Everyday Health

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

www.ninds.nih.gov

(800) 352-9424

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation

Cyberspace RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) Support Group

If You Like This Website Click Here To Create Your Own Website For Free

https://healthybacksupport.com/shop

 

I like to hear from the readers so please leave me a comment below to let me know if this post helped you or if you have any questions.

References

1. Guido R. Zanni

Pharmacy Times. 79.3 (Mar. 2013): p80.

2. Carol Rados

FDA Consumer. 40.3 (May-June 2006):

3.

https://healthunlocked.com/rlsuk/posts/132019139/what-is-this-feeling-is-it-restless-leg-syndrome-or-something-like-that-ugh

4.

Guido R. Zanni

Pharmacy Times. 79.3 (Mar. 2013): p80.

5. https://patient.info/medicine/ropinirole-tablets

6 thoughts on “How to Better Help Your RestLess Legs Syndrome

  1. Thank you for bringing this topic to the attention of others. I like that you were comprehensive enough to explore more than one perceived cause. I have a severe iron deficiency and it was posited that I have had RLS for years possibly. Once, I started an extremely high dose iron regimen, I was nearly entirely relieved of what is a very miserable condition. Because you are absolutely right, long road trips, which I would take frequently, sitting at the movies, sitting in bed at night and so many more activities were seriously stressed and sometimes excruciatingly painful because of it. It’s not a fun experience and some doctors are still very reluctant to diagnose it or treat it. I was lucky that for me the solution was my lack of iron. Others are not so lucky and relief is not that easy to come by. It becomes something that begins a vicious cycle for sufferers where health care providers often offer short term solutions. You providing your research and what may work for sufferers may really save someone a lot of stress. I must say that the dopamine connection was surprising to me, however. This is a great post!

    1. I’m glad that you found the post useful. I think RLS sufferers get tired of well-meaning friends saying things like, “Just drink chamomile tea before bed” “take magnesium for the cramps” “meditate” and all things that they, the sufferer, have thought of, or tried! This is a complex syndrome that needs thoughtful answers and a strong dose of empathy. Some doctors, sad to say, are not much help as they think it’s all in the patient’s head. I hope anyone reading this post, if they suffer from RlS, at least knows that there are people out there who are aware of their plight and want to give real help. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have suffered from RLS–even if you haven’t. It’s time to speak openly and compassionately about this condition.

  2. A very informative and needed post. Thanks for bringing this hard to talk about condition in the open. On a good night I might get about 3 hours sleep spread over the whole night, but on a bad night, I get no sleep at all. I have had to stop working after nights like this as I find myself falling asleep at the wheel and drifting off of the road. This terrified me and I have to be really be careful about when I am able to drive. Unfortunately most doctors don’t know how to deal with RSL.I wish some of these well-meaning “experts” could spend just a day in my shoes. They would understand that RLS is a real condition and not a product of a weak mind.

    1. Hi Rose,

      Yes, unfortunately there are doctors who think Restless Legs Syndrome is not a real illness and as a result offer very little help for those suffering from the condition. They have no idea of what it’s like, for example, to try and sleep sitting up on the sofa. I don’t suffer from RLS, but I am aware of what people like you are going through. I know that sometimes a lack of iron can resolve the issue. Perhaps this is something you might want to look at. That said, I appluad your willingness to tell your story. Maybe by bringing the issue to the attention of more people,the medical world will start giving RLS the seriousness it deserves. I wish you luck.

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I have always thought I was the only one experiencing this and many times I conclude its perhaps because of my athletic activities. But the urge begins to double in the last three weeks and that started getting me more and more concerned.
    I am really glad I found this post. Thank you so so much!

    1. Hi Larry,
      As I said in my post, Restless Legs Syndrome can hit home quickly. Remember the example I gave:

      Imagine sitting in a theater and watching a great show, then suddenly you feel a tingling or tightening in your legs. You need to get up and move your legs. So you quickly leave the theater, missing out on another amazing evening.
      Just think how devastating it is not to know from hour to hour how your day is going to end. A perfectly planned evening with friends can suddenly be ruined, and the worst part may be the disappoint you feel for once again “bailing” out on people you care about. I also have a friend who experienced RSL. The attitude of her doctors to downplay her condition made her suffering worse, and that’s what inspired me to write this post. I want anyone who has ever suffered from RSL to know that they are not alone. It’s not in their head. My intention was not only to provide understanding about this devastating condition, but to also provide hope.

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