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Restless Leg Syndrome

 

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs. The symptoms are accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs.

 

Symptoms

People use a variety of words to express the discomfort of RLS such as:

  • Pulling
  • Searing
  • Drawing
  • Crawling
  • Tingling
  • Pins and needles
  • Prickly
  • Wormy

These sensations are typically worse during periods of rest, especially just before sleeping at night, but they may also happen during daytime periods of inactivity, such as watching a movie, attending a long business meeting, or flying in a plane.

Whenever the discomfort of RLS occurs, it is usually accompanied by an overwhelming urge to move the legs, and this movement may temporarily relieve leg discomfort. At night, persons with RLS often find that their leg symptoms make it difficult to fall asleep. Because of this, insomnia is common, together with extreme drowsiness and fatigue during the daytime. The patient may also feel compelled to move his or her legs in order to relieve the symptoms during the day.

 

Causes

Factors including circulatory problems, anxiety, depression and nutritional deficiencies (e.g. folic acid, iron, and magnesium) are believed to be involved.

Smoking, caffeine and other stimulants may increase the symptoms.

 

Natural Therapies

  • Low iron levels in the blood have been correlated with the syndrome; an iron supplement may help to reduce the symptoms.
  • The mineral magnesium taken at the onset of the symptoms, often solves the problem, particularly if RLS is associated with leg cramps. Best taken just before bed.
  • Ginkgo biloba may help if the condition is accompanied by poor circulation.
  • Relaxing herbs including passionflower, hops, and are especially useful in promoting sleep, usually taken about 45 minutes before bedtime.

In cases of restless legs syndrome, there appears to be a higher need for folic acid - your healthcare professional will recommend an appropriate dose for you.

Additionally, relaxant herbs are often prescribed, taken at bedtime to prevent awakening but not the nocturnal movements.

 

Lifestyle Factors

Smoking affects the circulation to the legs and can be associated with RLS. Quitting smoking will not only help RLS but it will also improve your overall health.

 

Remedy

Avoid stimulants such as coffee before bedtime, and reduce your use of them generally.

Regular massage is beneficial to the nervous system as well as helping to relax the leg muscles, and may help to reduce or prevent episodes of RLS.

 

Important Notes

Consult your healthcare professional if you are experiencing symptoms of RLS for the first time.

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