Restless legs syndrome, also called RLS or Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological sensory disorder that causes hostile sensations in the legs. Since RLS usually interferes with sleep, it is also classified as a sleep disorder. RLS is most commonly experienced in the legs, but can also occur in the arms or other body parts.
Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS sensations are often described as:
- being poked with pins
- electric sensations
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Restless Leg Syndrome at Night
Restless leg syndrome is worst when at rest in the evenings. It can prevent sleep or disturb sleep. Occasionally, more than 80% of those with RLS twitch and kick their limbs during the night, about every 15 to 40 seconds. Due to inability to sleep at night, RLS often leads to daytime insomnia, even resulting in depression.
Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS is typically diagnosed by the symptoms because there isn’t a particular test for it. However other tests may be needed to rule out related conditions that contribute to it.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome
A wide variety of conditions and factors can cause RLS. Generally, more women develop the condition compared to men. Pregnancy also increases the risk, as well as certain diseases, food sensitivities, and nutrient deficiencies.
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Left-handed people are more likely to develop RLS than right-handed people because of differences in brain structure that affect the nervous system.
Other causes may be:
Medications like antidepressants and antipsychotics that affects brain function can cause RLS. Common cold and allergy medications can contribute to the symptoms.
Poor nourishment can cause RLS. Sugar leads to depletion of magnesium in the body, which in turn can cause RLS symptoms. Stimulants like caffeine and alcohol tend to aggravate the condition. Food allergies like gluten and monosodium glutamate (MSG) can also trigger RLS symptoms.
RLS runs in families. Researchers found that Asians are less likely to have RLS, as are those in Iran compared to the US. This reported in a paper published by the Nephrology and Urology Research Center in Iran. Genetics and racial differences appears to play a role in RLS because African Americans are also 20% less likely than caucasians to experience RLS symptoms.
Diseases Affecting the Brain
Restless leg syndrome can be a symptom of certain diseases that affects the brain like Parkinson’s disease, anemia, kidney failure, and diabetes. Damage to the part of the brain that causes muscle movements, has been linked with RLS. The disrupted neural pathways then cause reflex movements.
Natural Remedies to Stop RLS
It may take a combination of treatment to get rid of RLS, but getting to the root cause is the best way to get rid of the disease. Doctors may recommend lifestyle changes and natural methods before resorting to prescription drugs.
Vitamins that help alleviate restless leg syndrome symptoms include:
Magnesium is a popular natural supplements for restless leg syndrome. Magnesium deficiency is common in our modern society due to the depletion of soil. Sugar, alcohol, caffeine, certain medications, and even stress can deplete the magnesium stores in our body.
According to studies, certain muscles in the leg function differently in those with RLS, precisely the back left of the calf muscle, and the muscle to the right of the shin bone. Proper magnesium levels help these smooth muscle fibers relax and are essential to a healthy nervous system.
People with restless legs syndrome have too low of iron levels in the brain, according to studies. Iron supplements can be used to reverse symptoms of RLS in some people. In a 2009 study published in Sleep Medicine, iron-deficient subjects saw a significant improvement in RLS symptoms after twelve weeks of iron supplementation.
Vitamin D could increase levels of dopamine in the brain, according to study. RLS has been linked with vitamin D deficiency and severity of disease has been inversely correlated with vitamin D levels.
Selenium supports dopamine function in the body, which is believed to be linked with restless legs syndrome. Supplementation with 50 and 200 micrograms (mcg) of selenium pointedly improved RLS symptoms in an Iranian clinical trial. Both groups had good results, so researchers concluded that a 50 mcg dose would be cheaper since one Brazil nut contains about 77 micrograms, which is a full day’s worth of selenium.
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This occurs when pressure is applied to precise pressure points, usually on the bottom of the foot. This pressure affects the nervous system. A team of researchers compared a group of RLS patients receiving reflexology to those doing stretches and found that symptoms of both groups improved considerably.
A warm bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) relaxes muscles and relieves RLS symptoms.
Lavender essential oil
Massaging with lavender essential oil significantly improved RLS symptoms, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Nursing and Midwifery Studies. RLS sufferers received a 10 minute massage with lavender essential oil diluted to 1.5% twice weekly. Lavender also improves sleep quality and insomnia, which are associated with RLS.
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