Restless Leg Syndrome – What You Should Know this 2023

If you feel an intense impulse to move your legs while sitting or lying down, you are not alone. Perhaps you’ve found yourself laying in bed or sitting in front of your computer, only to discover that your legs and feet are moving repetitively – almost as if they had their own minds.

When this happens, you are most certainly suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, a neurological illness described by painful sensations in the legs and an insatiable desire to move them. In this article, we’ll cover the things you need to know about Restless Leg Syndrome, and share with you how to prevent them. Let’s get kicking! 

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable impulse to move one’s legs, frequently in response to an unpleasant sensation. Restless Leg Syndrome usually happens in the evening or at night, when you’re seated or lying down. 

Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom illness, can start at any age and worsens with age. Moving temporarily alleviates the unpleasant sensation, but it can interfere with daily tasks by disrupting sleep

How Many People are Affected by Restless Leg Syndrome?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, RLS affects roughly 10% of Americans. It can happen at any age, although it’s frequently worse in middle age or later. Moreover, Restless Leg Syndrome affects women twice as much as males.

At least 80% of persons with RLS have a disorder known as periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). PLMS produces twitching or jerking of the legs when sleeping. It might happen as frequently as every 15 to 40 seconds and can last all night. Sleep deprivation can also be caused by PLMS. Although there is no cure for RLS, medicines can help moderate symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?

‘These symptoms typically occur during periods of rest or inactivity, such as when sitting or lying down, and they often worsen in the evening or at night,’ explains Dr Chun Tang, medical director of Pall Mall Medical.

The primary symptom is an insatiable urge to move the legs. RLS is frequently accompanied by the following symptoms:

Sensations that start when you’re sleeping. The sensation usually develops after sleeping down or sitting for an extended period of time, such as in a car, airplane, or movie theater.

Movement provides relief. Movement, such as stretching, jiggling the legs, pacing, or walking, reduces the sensation of Restless Leg Syndrome.

Leg twitching at night. Restless Leg Syndrome may be coupled with another, more frequent condition known as periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes the legs to twitch and kick while you sleep, possibly throughout the night.

For some patients, it can be difficult to describe at times. RLS sufferers rarely characterize their symptoms as muscle cramps or numbness. 

Dr Chang adds: ‘People with RLS often describe the sensations as crawling, creeping, tingling, burning, or itching deep within the legs. Sufferers may find the sensations difficult to describe accurately but they are distressing and uncomfortable.

‘The discomfort is accompanied by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs to alleviate the sensations. This movement can be voluntary or involuntary, such as constant shifting, stretching, or rhythmic leg movements.

‘In more severe cases, the symptoms can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, leading to chronic sleep disturbances and fatigue and severity can also fluctuate over time.’

How do I treat Restless Leg Syndrome?

In terms of treatment, Tower Health physiotherapist Rich McBain says there are three options: lifestyle changes, medication, and medical management.

‘Mild cases may benefit from lifestyle changes such as frequent exercise, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding coffee and alcohol close to bedtime, and practicing relaxation techniques,’ Rich explains.

‘Medications can be administered for more severe cases that have a considerable impact on sleep and quality of life. Dopaminergic drugs, opioids, anticonvulsants, and iron supplements may be used if iron deficiency is a contributory component.’

He continues, ‘Treating underlying problems, such as iron deficiency or peripheral neuropathy, can occasionally ease RLS symptoms.’

While home treatments are unlikely to fully erase symptoms, they may assist to alleviate them. Here are some you can do at home: 

  • Reduced caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco consumption 
  • Have a consistent sleep routine and schedule
  • Get some daily activity, such as walking or swimming
  • Massage or stretch your leg muscles.
  • Before going to bed, take a hot bath.
  • Try yoga or meditation.
  • When planning activities that require extended sitting, such as a car or airline journey, try to schedule them earlier in the day rather than later.

What should I eat if I have Restless Leg Syndrome?

There are no dietary recommendations for patients with RLS. However, you should evaluate your diet to ensure you’re getting enough critical vitamins and nutrients. Reduce your consumption of high-calorie manufactured foods with little or no nutritional value.

Some patients with RLS are lacking in certain vitamins and minerals. If this is the case, you can make dietary modifications or take dietary supplements. It all depends on the findings of your tests.

If you’re deficient in iron, try adding more of these iron-rich foods to your diet:

  • dark green leafy vegetables
  • peas
  • dried fruit
  • beans
  • red meat and pork
  • poultry and seafood
  • iron-fortified foods such as certain cereals, pasta, and bread

Because vitamin C aids in iron absorption, you may want to combine iron-rich foods with the following vitamin C sources:

  • orange and lemon juices
  • oranges, tangerines, strawberries, kiwi, and melons
  • tomatoes, bell peppers
  • Broccoli, green leafy vegetables

Some patients with RLS never seek medical help because they are afraid they will be disregarded. However, RLS can disrupt your sleep, develop tiredness during the day, and negatively impact your quality of life. If you suspect you have RLS, we recommend you consult with your doctor.