Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease affects up to 15% of people in America.  The disorder can cause itching, burning, and aching in the legs when you are at rest and lead to major issues with your sleep patterns.   This sleep-related movement disorder gets its name from the overpowering urges to move the legs while at rest.   These urges for movement can cause uncomfortable sensation in the limbs and oftentimes hurt. 


One cause of restless leg syndrome that has been identified is a deficiency in iron. A blood test can help you identify this and hopefully treat the deficiency, helping relieve the symptoms of restless leg.  Another cause is certain types of medication in which restless leg syndrome is a side effect.  These medications range from antihistamines to antidepressants.  Similarly some women experience this condition, or a worsening of symptoms during pregnancy.  

How is restless leg syndrome diagnosed?

According to the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation, there are 5 measures used to determine of restless leg syndrome is indeed what you are suffering from. 

1.       You have a strong urge to move your legs (sometimes arms and trunk), usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs. 

2.       Your symptoms begin or become worse when you are resting or inactive, such as when lying down or sitting. 

3.       Your symptoms get better when you move, such as when you walk or stretch, at least as long as the activity continues. 

4.       Your symptoms are worse in the evening or night than during the day, or only occur in the evening or nighttime hours. 

5.       Your symptoms are not solely accounted for by another condition such as leg cramps, positional discomfort, leg swelling or arthritis.

What are some of the treatments for restless leg syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome can stem from many different things and as such figuring out if it is a symptom of another medical condition, or the side effect of a medication can be helpful.  Treating the condition causing restless leg syndrome, or stopping medication can oftentimes make the syndrome go away.  This only works for some people living with the syndrome, however.  For many the cause is unclear, so the best course of action is trying to treat the symptoms.  Here are some ways to do this:

·         Take a hot bath with Epsom salts.  The magnesium in the salts relax the muscles before bed.

·         Eating a protein snack before bedtime can stabilize blood sugar, and avoid symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

·         Avoid foods like sweets or carbs before bed which can spike and crash your blood sugar levels.

·         Try a natural sleep aid like amino acid L-tryptophan.

·         Stay hydrated.

·         Get enough potassium, through foods like bananas or coconut.

·         Elevate your leg(s) by using a leg-raising pillow.

·         Exercise to tire muscles out and relax them.  Stretching can be very helpful to this end.

·         Alternating between warm and cold packs on the muscles can ease leg pain and achiness.

·         Avoid alcohol and caffeine.

·         Stick to a sleep schedule.

·         Try to identify your triggers, and avoid them.

·         If you are over 40, and overweight, get tested for sleep apnea.