Restless legs syndrome is a condition in which you have creeping or crawling sensations in your legs and an uncontrollable urge to move your legs due to the discomfort. The sensations typically happen in the evenings or while you’re sitting still or lying down for extended periods. Moving temporarily eases the discomfort.
Sometimes, restless legs syndrome may be associated with another condition called periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kicks, possibly throughout the night, while you sleep.
There’s no known cause for restless legs syndrome. Researchers suspect it may result from an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which sends messages to control muscle movement.
Sometimes restless legs syndrome runs in families, especially if it starts before age 50. Pregnancy or hormonal changes may temporarily worsen signs and symptoms. Some women get restless legs syndrome for the first time during pregnancy. Signs and symptoms usually disappear after delivery.
People typically describe restless legs syndrome as a condition that involves abnormal, unpleasant sensations in their legs or feet. Less commonly, the sensations affect the arms.
The sensations generally occur within the limb rather than on the skin, are described as:
Signs and symptoms can range from barely bothersome to incapacitating. Many people find it difficult to fall asleep at night or to stay asleep during the night. Symptoms also may fluctuate in severity. In some cases, they disappear for periods of time, then recur.
Treatment typically focuses on lifestyle changes, and if those aren’t effective, medications may be prescribed.
A variety of medications may help reduce the restlessness in your legs. They include Medications that increase dopamine, Medications that treat neuropathy symptoms, Muscle relaxants, and sleep medications.
Many times, simple lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms.
- Take warm baths. Soaking in a warm bath and massaging your legs can relax your muscles.
- Use warm or cool packs. Use of heat or cold, or alternating the two, may lessen limb sensations.
- Try relaxation techniques. Stress can aggravate restless legs syndrome. Meditation or yoga before bed may be helpful.
- Stretch and massage. Begin and end your day with stretching exercises or gentle massage.
- Exercise. Moderate, daily exercise may relieve symptoms, but overdoing it or exercising too late in the day may intensify them.
- Limit or avoid caffeine. For some people, cutting back on caffeine reduces signs and symptoms.
Excerpt From: The Mayo Clinic. “Mayo Clinic A to Z Health Guide”.