Tag Archives: sleep disturbance

Restless Legs (Part 3) Natural and Medical Treatment

We have been looking at the symptoms, triggers and lifestyle tips for the frustrating and mysterious sleep-disturbance condition restless leg syndrome (RLS) in our last coupe posts. For our last RLS feature, we will examine the natural and medical management options available to sufferers as the condition can adversely impact both sleep and quality of life if left unattended. While there is no cure for RLS as of now, there are many different symptoms management treatments to try. Different people experience success with different treatments or combinations thereof. Some of which include:

Alternative Remedies for RLS

There are multiple homeopathic and alternative treatment options available to try. Some of these are not scientifically backed or proven, but anecdotal evidence suggests effectiveness for many people so trying them out can’t hurt, hey?

  • This first one may sound strange – but thousands upon thousands of RLS sufferers have reported success with placing an unwrapped bar of soap in a sock and sleeping with it under the pillow or close to the legs. While there is no science available to back this remedy up, anecdotal evidence is strong (some health professionals suspect it has something to do with the magnesium content and ions).
  • Ask your doctor if vitamin D, C or E would be right for you to try, all of these have been associated with reducing RLS symptoms, but supplements can be dangerous for some people so check to see if they interact with your medications or conditions first. As your doctor (or one of ours!) about magnesium and calcium supplements as well.
  • Cold or hot compresses during peak symptom intensity may help ease symptoms.
  • Physiotherapy can help some people with their symptoms.
  • Homeopathic doctors often recommend 12c dilution of causticum for RLS. Be sure to always check with your doctor before trying any homeopathic treatment.
  • Massage can be an extremely effective treatment for RLS – especially before bedtime.
  • Relaxation tactics such as meditation can help chill out your system before bed.
  • Try topical OTC or herbal muscle creams or sprays to help relax the muscles.
  • Try drinking sleepy tea (with chamomile) before bed to help relax you.
  • Some sufferers report success with TENS machines (talk to your doctor first).

Medical Treatment Options

People with very extreme cases of RLS often find relief with certain prescribed medications that are usually used to help conditions with some similar symptoms as RLS such as Parkinson’s disease. Such medications include dopamine agents, benzodiazepines, anti-convulsing agents, or alpha2 agonists. Daily medications are usually reserved for RLS patients who do not respond to lifestyle or alternative treatment and who’s condition significantly impacts their sleep and overall quality of life.

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Restless Leg Syndrome (Part 1) Symptoms and Triggers

About a tenth of the American adult population (and 2% of children) are afflicted with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). According to the National Sleep Foundation, RLS, also known as Willis-Ekborn disease is “a sleep-related movement disorder is known best for its overwhelming and often unpleasant urges to move the legs while at rest.” It is often referred to as a neurological disorder as well.

Symptoms of RLS

RLS is a complex, case-dependent condition and symptoms range widely from person to person, some of which may be difficult to articulate. Commonly reported symptoms include:

  • Tingling of the legs (and sometimes other areas of the body)
  • An overpowering urge to move the legs in an attempt to relieve discomfort
  • Involuntary twitches and movements of the legs
  • A feeling of pulling or tugging at the legs during the night
  • Itching or irritation of the legs
  • Aching of the legs or frequent muscle spasms or cramps
  • ‘Crawling’ sensation or the feeling of something foreign coursing the veins of the legs
  • Jerking of the legs keeps you or your partner awake often during the night
  • Symptoms most often happen while you are resting or during the night
  • Tiredness during the day due to impaired sleep
  • Symptoms are often greatly relieved by repetitive movements or stretching

What Worsens RLS?

1. Stress is one of the biggest RLS triggers, if you can learn to manage your stress and anxiety it can greatly decrease symptoms.

2. While moderate exercise is beneficial to RLS, vigorous exercise may actually have an adverse impact on the condition because of the extreme stimulation and exhaustion of the muscles.

3. Certain medications such as heart or blood pressure medications, allergy medications or anti-depressants can trigger symptoms.

4. Herbal or dietary supplements can also adversely affect RLS, so it is important to cross check all your medications and supplements with your doctor or pharmacist.

5. Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine have also been associated with exacerbating RLS (caffeine and nicotine because of their stimulant effect on the body).

6. Extreme temperatures have also been linked to worsened RLS symptoms.

7. Lastly, diet has an impact on the condition. Certain sugar-loaded and highly processed foods have been associated with flare-ups.

How is RLS Diagnosed?

There is no one test that can confirm RLS, it is largely based on the patient’s symptoms and medical history. Your doctor may also run a series of tests to rule out potential underlying conditions that can cause similar neurological symptoms such as:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • A B12 or other vitamin deficiency
  • Kidney disease
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Anemia

Thus concludes our look at the causes, prevalence and symptoms of RLS – stay tuned for medical, homeopathic and lifestyle treatment options for RLS in our next post! Thanks for visiting DocChat, if you suspect you may have RLS or have any questions about management, sign up today for a video conference with one of our highly qualified DocChat physicians!