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RLS is an involuntary movement disorder that primarily affects the legs, causing restlessness in them. The symptoms are usually described as needing to move your legs whenever you’re sitting or lying down. This article provides information on the different types of RLS and its causes, treatments, how it’s diagnosed, and when treatment might help most.
Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that causes an uncomfortable sensation of tingling, crawling, or prickling sensations in the legs. There are many different symptoms and treatments for this condition. Foods that cause restless leg syndrome include caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and certain medications.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is thought to afflict more than one in ten persons in the United States each year (around 12 million people). RLS is a condition that causes you to feel uncomfortable in your legs and makes you want to move them to feel better. In addition, RLS is linked to a greater risk of sleeplessness and daytime weariness and increased usage of sleep-aid drugs, alcohol, and caffeine since symptoms tend to worsen overnight.
RLS is more common in middle-aged women, especially those going through or have gone through menopause. The symptoms of restless leg syndrome, which include jittery feelings, tingling, burning, and aching in one or both legs, are often described as bothersome rather than severe. However, some have compared the symptoms linked with RLS to “bugs crawling up your leg.” In other words, although RLS isn’t very harmful in the long run, it can have some unpleasant side effects.
People twitch, jiggle, or move their legs throughout the night in an attempt to halt RLS feelings, resulting in disturbed sleep. The worst thing is that moving your legs doesn’t generally make RLS symptoms go away for long – they usually come back shortly, and the cycle repeats.
What causes RLS, and how may it be treated? RLS, according to experts, runs in families, is linked to poor nutrition and increased stress, and is exacerbated by a lifestyle that increases inflammation and increases the risk of vitamin shortages. Although coping with restless leg syndrome may be difficult, the good news is that it is unlikely to create long-term issues. Improving your nutrition, exercising, stretching, and creating a nightly ritual to relax before sleep is all-natural strategies to cure restless leg syndrome.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?
The frequent neurological sensorimotor disease restless legs syndrome is described as an impulse to move the legs during rest or inactivity. According to the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group, four clinical criteria must be present to diagnose RLS:
- The need to move one’s legs frequently due to unpleasant leg sensations.
- Symptoms that appear or intensify during times of idleness or rest (including when sleeping, lying, or sitting)
- Symptoms that are eased partly or completely by movement
- Symptoms that become worse at night or in the evening
RLS is thought to be underdiagnosed, according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, and other research suggests it may impact up to 25% of all older persons in certain countries. Around 11% of individuals in the general population have RLS regularly, 10% have at least weekly symptoms, and 3% feel RLS has a significant impact on their quality of life.
What Causes It?
What are the common risk factors for restless leg syndrome, and who gets it? Although restless leg syndrome may occur in children or teenagers during development, puberty, or growth spurts, it is more frequent in middle-aged to older individuals. The following are some of the most common variables that contribute to the development of RLS:
- RLS is thought to run in families, and some studies have revealed that almost half of those who suffer from it have a family history of the illness.
- Gender: Women are more likely than males to suffer from RLS, which specialists think is linked to hormonal effects.
- RLS is also particularly frequent in people on dialysis for end-stage renal illness and have anemia or iron shortage.
- Magnesium or folate inadequacy is an example of other nutritional deficits.
- Varicose veins in the legs, which are diseased veins with valves that fail or leak blood backward into the legs, are now thought to be a source of RLS symptoms in many people. According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 98 percent of people with RLS who have varicose veins in their legs treated with non-surgical sclerotherapy have some symptom alleviation. (4)
- Obstructive pulmonary illness or renal problems that induce electrolyte imbalances are examples of chronic medical conditions that impact the kidneys or lungs.
- Pregnancy: Studies suggest that pregnant women are more likely to get RLS, particularly during the third trimester. However, it normally subsides after delivery. RLS affects up to 25% of women during pregnancy.
- Birth control pills and hormone replacement treatments used to address menopausal symptoms are examples of estrogen-containing drugs.
- Kidney difficulties, starvation, anemia, neurological abnormalities, and nerve damage may be caused by autoimmune illnesses or diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer neurology (nerve damage) symptoms, leading to RLS.
- ADHD: Children and adults with RLS have been observed to have a high prevalence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Parkinson’s disease is one example of a cognitive condition.
Signs and Symptoms
Restless leg syndrome symptoms usually worsen at night while a person is sleeping, although they may also occur during the day when a person is awake. In addition, long durations of sitting, lying down, or being in one sedentary posture exacerbate symptoms.
The following are the most prevalent symptoms of restless leg syndrome:
- Leg sensations are characterized as creepy, crawly, twitchy, scorching, or painful. Typically, feelings are felt deep within the calf muscles and in the feet, thighs, and even arms.
- A strong desire or sense that you need to itch, move, jiggle, or stretch your legs right away to halt the symptoms.
- When you move your legs, you get temporary respite from discomfort (although this usually only lasts briefly).
- Leg twitches and jerks are involuntary, akin to cramps (called periodic limb movements). The most typically observed periodic limb movements linked to RLS are leg twitches induced by nocturnal cramps.
- Sleeping problems as a result of being uncomfortable and waking up often. RLS symptoms for many individuals begin shortly after they fall asleep and last throughout the night, causing disturbed sleep, insomnia, and daytime tiredness or weariness.
One of the most serious issues with RLS is that it disrupts regular sleep, which may lead to various disorders such as chronic exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Many individuals are also turning to prescription sleep aids or pain relievers, which have a significant risk of addiction, reliance, and negative effects.
If you feel you have RLS, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your symptoms, risk factors, and medical history. Your doctor will most likely want to rule out other health issues, talk about your sleep patterns drugs you’re taking, and run tests to see whether you’re anemic, diabetic, or have other vitamin deficiencies that might impact your nerves and muscles.
The following are the most regularly prescribed drugs to treat RLS today:
- Dopaminergic may help you manage how much mobility you have in your legs. Pramipexole, ropinirole, carbidopa, and levodopa are examples.
- Sleep aids, such as benzodiazepines, are used to help individuals fall and remain asleep (though they haven’t been shown to work for everyone and may have a variety of negative effects).
- Strong medicines, such as codeine, may be used to lessen wakefulness and function as a tranquilizer in certain circumstances.
- Medications that help reduce diabetes-related nerve damage.
- Medications are used to treat epilepsy or cognitive problems like Parkinson’s disease.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, medicine is typically useful for a short length of time, but no one medication adequately treats RLS for all people. Furthermore, daily drugs may lose their effectiveness with time, necessitating periodic prescription changes, and they might become addicted.
Keep in mind that, according to the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, several drugs used to treat common health problems might exacerbate or worsen RLS symptoms. These are some of them:
- Many cold, allergy, and over-the-counter sleep medications include antihistamines (such as Benadryl).
- Antihypertensive drops are a kind of medication that is used to treat excessive blood pressure.
- Anti-nausea and anti-dizziness drugs (including meclizine, Compazine, Phenergan, and Reglan)
- Antidepressants are medications that are used to treat depression (including Elavil, Prozac, Lexapro, and Effexor)
- Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and other severe diseases are treated with psychiatric drugs (such as haloperidol and phenothiazines)
Treatments that aren’t harmful to the body
Restless leg syndrome treatment should prioritize addressing any recognized underlying issues causing the illness, such as diabetes, anemia, or a curable autoimmune disorder. In addition, many individuals with mild instances of RLS find that making lifestyle changes, including adjusting their diets, controlling stress, and adopting regular sleep rituals, may significantly reduce RLS symptoms.
1. A Balanced Diet to Eliminate Deficiencies
Restless leg syndrome and illnesses that contribute to its symptoms, such as diabetes and anemia, have been related to vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Here are several foods that might help relieve RLS symptoms, as well as others to avoid that may aggravate it:
Foods to Avoid if You Have Restless Leg Syndrome:
- To prevent an electrolyte imbalance, be sure to get lots of electrolytes from whole foods, such as those rich in magnesium, potassium, and calcium. Leafy green vegetables, avocado, beans, bananas, sweet potatoes, raw dairy products (cultured yogurt), almonds, and seeds are also good sources.
- Consume only unprocessed, 100 percent whole grains to maintain blood sugar balance. Ancient grains, including rolled oats, quinoa, buckwheat, wild rice, and amaranth, are good alternatives (in moderation).
- Iron and B vitamins are often found in protein sources. Grass-fed meat, pasture-raised chicken, wild-caught fish, beans, and lentils are also excellent alternatives.
- Healthy fats may help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation linked to RLS. Coconut or olive oil, avocado, seeds, almonds, and wild seafood containing omega-3 fats are good sources.
Other food and supplement adjustments that may aid in the natural treatment of restless leg syndrome include:
- Avoid excessive alcohol use, which may disrupt sleep; likewise, consider lowering or eliminating caffeine.
- Smoking cessation
- Magnesium supplements are beneficial in preventing magnesium shortage (a widespread problem among people who are very stressed or eating poor diets)
2. Check for anemia
Supplementing and modifying your diet may help if an underlying vitamin deficiency, such as iron deficiency, is revealed to be the core cause of RLS or is making it worse. Consume lots of iron-rich meals and those high in B vitamins, such as folate. Organ meats, beans and lentils, spinach and leafy greens, sardines, grass-fed beef, and lamb are all rich in iron.
Consider taking a multivitamin with iron and B vitamins as well. However, large quantities of one vitamin might interfere with your body’s capacity to utilize other minerals, so it’s crucial not to take them without supervision. If your symptoms worsen or new ones arise, speak with your doctor about being monitored.
3. Epsom salts in warm baths
Epsom salt can be obtained in almost any pharmacy, is relatively inexpensive, and when added to a relaxing, warm bath, it functions as a natural anti-inflammatory and muscular soother. In addition, because of its chemical composition (including magnesium sulfate, MgSO4), which is broken down into magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen, Epsom salt has a long history of usage in treating muscle spasms and discomfort, even magnesium shortage.
The most typical advice is to soak for at least 20 minutes in warm water with one to two cups of Epsom salt. A 20-minute lower leg and foot bath may also be made with a half-cup of Epsom salt added to a big pan of warm water. Not only does the salt aid to comfort the legs, but the heat itself relaxes muscles and relieves RLS pain and tingling.
4. Massage Therapy and Essential Oils
To relieve unpleasant or painful places on your legs, you may either contact a massage therapist for a professional massage or practice basic massage movements on your own legs at home. In addition, consider using essential oils such as cypress essential oil, rosemary, lavender, or cedarwood oil on problematic parts of the legs, trunks, or arms at home. Many essential oils contain natural antispasmodic properties that aid in preventing spasms, cramps, and muscular pulls. They may also assist you in unwinding before bed and getting a better night’s sleep.
5. Stretching and Exercise
According to research, specific activities may help relieve restless limb syndrome symptoms, and being more physically active in general can help reduce symptoms. In a 2006 research, a combination of moderate aerobic activity and lower-body resistance training conducted at least three times a week was shown to help greatly reduce the intensity of RLS symptoms. Over the course of six weeks, several patients noticed a 50% decrease in symptoms.
Keep in mind that severe, highly rigorous activity and not giving yourself adequate rest between sessions may aggravate symptoms, so take pauses and avoid overtraining.
Stretches that might help relieve RLS symptoms include:
- Lunging and other calf stretches
- Stretching the hamstrings by bending forward.
- Quad stretches are standing on one leg, folding the other leg, and pushing it behind you.
- Sitting on the ground with your legs bowed and open like a book allows you to stretch your hips.
- Bending the toes and foot back toward you while stretching the heel on a flat wall
- Getting up and exercising your legs after a lengthy period of sitting
6. Sleep Prioritization and Stress Management
Insomnia, sleep disturbances, chronic stress, and weariness are all linked to RLS. Make it a point to develop a regular nighttime ritual to help you relax and sleep more soundly. Stress relievers, such as the following, are useful for obtaining better sleep and relaxing at night.
- Avoiding using devices within a few hours of going to bed
- Exercising throughout the day to get a better night’s sleep (including yoga, resistance training, or walking, which have all been found to be helpful)
- Stretching and yoga are two of my favorite things to do.
- Bathing or showering with hot water
- Massage your thighs
- Deep breathing and relaxing strategies for the body
- Prayer and meditation
- Maintaining a journal
- Something relaxing to read
Sciatica vs. Restless Leg Syndrome
- Sciatica, also known as sciatic nerve pain, is a condition that causes pain to travel down the legs, generally from the lower back to the feet. RLS and sciatic nerve discomfort are often misunderstood.
- A pinched nerve or herniated disc in the lower spine running along the sciatic nerve is the most common cause of sciatica. Spinal stenosis, infection, a shattered pelvis or thighbone, or a tumor are all possible causes of sciatica.
- According to Harvard Medical School, the major distinction between these two disorders is that sciatica does not become worse during sleep and subsequently improves during the daytime, like restless leg syndrome dose. Instead, moving, coughing, bending, exercising, sneezing, and other physical actions that strain the sciatic nerve aggravate sciatica symptoms.
- Some people choose painkillers or surgery to cure sciatica, but less intrusive treatment alternatives may be as effective. Chiropractic spinal adjustments or spinal manipulation, stretching, acupuncture, yoga, and massage treatment are all options for treating sciatica.
RLS may worsen with age for some individuals, particularly if the underlying reasons aren’t addressed. Most of the time, restless legs syndrome does not evolve to a more severe health concern or offer any significant hazards. However, it is still vital to monitor the symptoms’ progression.
If you have any of the following symptoms in addition to those linked with RLS, see a doctor rule out other health concerns, and begin treating underlying diseases that cause leg pain:
- Low blood sugar symptoms and dizziness
- Memory loss and forgetfulness
- Severe chronic tiredness is a condition that affects a person’s ability to
- Severe numbness and tingling in your limbs
- Restless leg syndrome creates unpleasant leg feelings that keep you awake at night and make you want to move your legs.
- Anemia, diabetes, and diabetic neuropathy, as well as heredity, a sedentary lifestyle, and other medical problems that cause nerve injury, are among the causes.
- Changing your food, lifestyle, and nightly habits may frequently help you sleep better if you have restless legs syndrome.
- Create a bedtime regimen to aid sleep, rectify any shortcomings, and stretch or massage your legs often. To alleviate RLS, eat more magnesium-, iron-, and B-vitamin-rich foods and cut out on caffeine, sweets, and alcohol.
Frequently Asked Question
What is the main cause of restless leg syndrome?
A: The main cause of restless leg syndrome is when the body has a lot of stress and tension. This can come from many different sources, including but not limited to overworking your muscles, being unable to get enough sleep due to work or school commitments, lack of stimulation in life because everything is too easy for you.
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