This malady is bothersome at night and may wake a person from sound sleep. Symptoms vary from feelings of creeping/crawling on the skin to sensations of pulling/throbbing. People suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome (aka “RLS,” “Ekbom Disease,” or “Willis-Ekbom Disease”), regardless of the perceived sensation, seek to constantly move their legs, hence the syndrome of restless legs.

Ten percent of the U.S. suffers from this condition. It may result in sleep deprivation and exhaustion, reduced concentration levels and impaired memory, depression, etc. People move to relieve the feeling, making it a “movement disorder.” The following article will provide you with helpful advice on the symptoms and possible treatments of RLS.

woman holding her feet off the window

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome treatment addresses discomfort on one level, with sensations in legs motivating sufferers to attempt to relieve their discomfort through movement. Patients often cannot verbalize the specific uncomfortable sensations and other limbs may also suffer as a result.

Symptoms occur primarily at night. They will vary from day to day, being episodic, disappearing for weeks or longer. Furthermore, the “periodic limb movement of sleep” (PLMS) condition co-occurs in eight out of ten RLS sufferers where sleep may be difficult several times per minute. Thus, the onset of RLS may be the longer periods of sitting. These symptoms also worsen as time passes, several studies say.

Underlying Causes

The etiology of RLS is still, as of yet, hard to detemrine. The circulation of blood vessels controlling motor nerves or sensation do not appear responsible. Brain neurotransmitters regulating muscle or autonomic movement may also be part of the problem. Suspicion has turned to common underlying medical problems (e.g., anemia, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, sleep deprivation, etc.) and conditions (e.g., arthritis, depression, fibromyalgia, hereditary predisposition, metabolic changes, Parkinson’s syndrome, renal disease, Shogren’s syndrome, thyroid anomalies, tumors, etc.) Alcohol, caffeine, smoking, vitamin or mineral deficiencies, medications (Dilantin, amitriptyline, Paxil, beta-blockers, antipsychotics, etc.) may be causative factors along with changes in medical management as when vasodilator, sedatives, or antidepressants are altered in timing.

Treatment Strategies for RLS

1. Focus

Lacking clear etiology, the choice of Restless Leg Syndrome treatments is not that easy. Focus often aims at RLS “triggers,” assuming that the condition will resolve if triggers are no longer present. Lifestyle changes are central. Avoidance or elimination of trigger substances or foods, e.g., alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, etc. can be beneficial. Evaluation of potential medication factors may be explored by changing medications or modifying their use. But, other condition parameters can be modified for Restless Leg Syndrome treatment.

2. Sleep Environment

Patients often receive instructions to foster a productive sleep environment, making it dark, comfortable, and quiet. They are directed to get rid of things that interfere with sleep (e.g. computer, phone, tv, etc.) and cultivate good sleep habits, maintaining a consistent bedtime and wake time. Reading in bed is not a good idea, and patients should shut off the lights and go to sleep in an appropriate environment. Sleep clinicians may promote relaxation strategies to enhance sleep readiness.

3. Daily Activity Levels

Sedentary sufferers should also get busy and physical with an enhanced daily exercise routine. Their goal should be to become physically tired by bedtime.

4. Intervention Activity at Symptom Onset

When sleeping is difficult on account of RLS, sufferers have seen success by stimulating the nervous system in the particular limb. People can manage the discomfort by getting up, stretching, or walking. Those activities deal with motor nerves.

couple with their feet showing in bed from under blanket

5. Massage

Simple massage will stimulate the restless leg area. Subsequently, clinicians may provide massage and/or educate sufferers in the niceties of appropriate massage for an affected body part.

One successful strategy was administering massage-like pressure during sleep. “Limb compression devices” presumably stimulate blood flow in the limbs and appear to relieve the complaint through Restless Leg Syndrome treatment that alternates pressure to address subclinical ischemia and encourage circulation in blood-deprived tissues.

6. Temperature Change

Hot or cold packs or baths have the ability to stimulate the tactile nerves with relief coming if nerves are the underlying cause for the RLS. The success mechanism may be similar to that of massage, i.e., blood flow encouraged when the body’s tissue temperature changes.

7. Mental Activity

Challenging the brain with difficult mental gymnastics potentially can get the brain’s focus off the RLS malady, essentially short-circuiting the brain signal to move those legs or other involved limbs so the limb never gets that stimulus to move. Getting the mind off a problem is one effective way to relieve pain for many people with several medical issues.

8. Osteopathy

Referral to osteopaths for remediation was explored on a clinical research basis, one group of patients receiving four courses of osteopathic treatment and one (control) group receiving no intervention. Results demonstrated no significant difference on a physical basis after treatment, but those receiving osteopathy care noted less severity after treatment. However, when the control group received similar restless leg syndrome treatment after the formal study, it also had measurable quality of life enhancement, but no change in physical status. Another osteopathic study also demonstrated positive for help of RLS sufferers.

9. Chiropractic Intervention

Chiropractic focus is on spinal manipulation to relieve joint and muscle stress in the RLS-affected leg or limb. Chiropractic may advocate leg stretches, electro-micro current therapy, or exercise to strengthen pelvis, lumbo-sacral angle, or intervertebral disc structures. Although RLS sufferers may find relief after routine adjustments, no formal studies in the professional literature document success.

10. Supportive Care

People need encouragement when suffering physical problems. Often the domain of pastors, counselors, and social workers, primary care providers and staff in America will want to encourage Restless Leg Syndrome treatment for sufferers, but may lack resources beyond diagnostic and prescription skills. They (particularly RNs with major gate-keeper roles in today’s U.S. medicine) must make referrals to supportive health care professionals or patient support groups.

girl with her feed showing from under a gray blanket

Some Conclusions

As we’ve rounded up here, we can clearly see that the restless leg syndrome doesn’t yet have a comprehensive definition. Thus, we don’t know exactly what the restless leg syndrome treatment is, but there are a lot of ideas in and around this.

If your case of RLS gets more serious, our suggestion would be that you give the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation a message and see if your physician can come up with a treatment for your condition.

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