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Restless Leg Syndrome

After 22 years as an RN, I now write about medical issues and new medical advances. Diet, exercise, treatment, and lifestyle are important.

source Flickr

source Flickr

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder in which there is an urge or need to move the legs to stop unpleasant sensations. It is very uncomfortable while you are sitting or lying down, then you have the urge to get up and move.

Restless Leg Syndrome Facts

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can begin at any age, and it usually worsens as you grow older. It is estimated that 10% of the population has RLS, and women are affected more often than men.

It typically starts off slowly and increases through the years with the greatest number of people affected being over 65. It can interfere with your sleep, so sleep disorders are common with this disease. It can make traveling difficult or sitting through a movie or play. Typically symptoms are worse in the evening

source Commons Wikimedia

source Commons Wikimedia

Symptoms of Restless Leg Symptoms

The commonly described symptoms of restless legs are tingling, cramping, crawling, creeping, pulling, painful, electric, tense, uncomfortable, itchy, tugging, gnawing, aching and burning. This is quite a list! Some people refer to this disease as nervous leg syndrome. People perceive discomfort in different ways, but all of these descriptions are from people with RLS.

The symptoms start especially when you are not active, when you have been sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. Movement gives some relief. There are a number of ways that people try to stop the sensation, such as stretching, jiggling their legs, pacing the floor, exercising or walking.

Restless leg syndrome

Periodic Limb Movement

There is another medical condition called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), which may be associated with restless leg syndrome. This other condition causes flexing and extending your legs while sleeping, and you are not aware. However, if you sleep with someone else they would probably become aware of this continual movement.

If you have a severe cause of this disease you will do involuntary kicking movements while you are awake. PLMS is common in older adults and more than 4 out of 5 people with RLS also have experienced PLMS. Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco may aggravate the symptoms.

Possible Causes of RLS

Most people with RLS never get any medical treatment, as they really don’t want to go to the doctor and try to explain their problem, or they fear they won’t be taken seriously. Some doctors may attribute these symptoms to nervousness or stress.

There is no known cause but researchers think it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, with the brain’s chemical dopamine. It does tend to run in families.

Pregnancy and hormonal changes can worsen the symptoms as well. Peripheral neuropathy which is damage to the peripheral nerves in the feet can cause RLS, and this is due to diabetes or alcoholism. Iron deficiency can also worsen the symptoms, and kidney failure is also a causative factor. Other possible causes are obesity, smoking or a nerve disease that is associated with hypothyroidism. Toxicity due to heavy metals may also cause the disease.

source life123

source life123

Possible Underlying Causes

There are some medical conditions that treatment may also cure restless leg syndrome if they are left untreated. They include anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, Parkinson disease, nutritional deficiencies and varicose veins.

Sometimes treatment of this medical condition will relieve restless leg syndrome symptoms.

Certain medications may also worsen, such as: Benadryl, Reglan, Compro, haloperidol (Haldol) or olanzapine (Zyprexa), Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Elavil or amoxapine (Asendin), tramadol (Ultram) and levothyroxine.

Restless Legs Syndrome Evidenced Based Treatment

Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

The treatment for restless leg syndrome is first directed at any possible underlying illness.

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Other treatments:

  • Stopping smoking and exercise will help provide relief.
  • These are some of the medications for restless legs:
  • Carbidopa-levodopa
  • Opioids (propoxyphene) or tramadol (Ultram)
  • Clonazepam, diazepam (Valium), triazolam, temazepam, (muscle relaxers)
  • Bromocriptine and clonidine
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin) recently has been found helpful
  • FDA newly approved for RLS ropinirole (Requip) and pramipexole (Mirapex)

Other helpful restless leg syndrome treatments are avoiding caffeine, warm/cold baths, electric nerve stimulation, oral magnesium and acupuncture

In Conclusion

To summarize, RLS is a leg disorder that is painful and unpleasant. It frequently leads to insomnia. and the cause is really not known. Treatment first looks at any other possible underlying diseases that may be causing this problem. There is medication available to give you relief.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on April 01, 2013:

molometer, It is such a difficult problem to treat that sometimes walking does relieve the discomfort. I agree that good sleep is very important. Thank you so much for your comments.

Micheal from United Kingdom on April 01, 2013:

Very well written and researched article Pamela, this restless leg syndrome is a reason for so many sleepless nights as you mentioned.

I like the NHS doctors advice. 'Get up and walk around'. Not what someone would want to do when they need to sleep.

Good sleep as we know is so very important.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on March 06, 2013:

Cam8510, Yes, I knew they just changed the name in February to Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED) Foundation. I wrote this article quite some time ago. Thanks for your comments, and I will check out your hub.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on March 06, 2013:

Pamela, I ran across your article when I posted one of my own on RLS just a couple of hours ago. You are most likely aware of it, but the new name for RLS is now in place. The RLS foundation in Rochester, Minnesota has also changed its name to coincide. Here is the URL to my latest story in case you want to check it out.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on January 19, 2011:

Support Med, Thanks so much for your comments.

Support Med. from Michigan on January 19, 2011:

This is good information. Thanks for sharing. Since magnesium is good for RLS, looks like drinking milk and taking supplements is a good idea. Will keep as a reference. Voted and rated.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 29, 2010:

Darski, I hope this will be helpful for your friend.

Thanks so much for your comments. Hugs to you.

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on November 29, 2010:

Major important hub my lovely Pam, my neighbor has this and walks her dog all the time, she even walks at night. I feel so sorry for her. This is a must read for all and an well written and wise advise, awesome hub. I rate this up and well send to my friend, and twit this. Love darksi

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 05, 2010:

PhoenixV, I'm sorry to hear you have to suffer with RLS. Thanks for sharing your comments.

PhoenixV from USA on November 05, 2010:

I voted up! Thanks Pamela, I get RLS and cant stand it. Its weird how something like this can be so annoying and frustrating when you need sleep. Thanks so much great topic and information!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 03, 2010:

Tina, Thank you for your information as I didn't find that in my research. I appreciate your comments.

TINA V on November 03, 2010:

This is a topic that most often being disregard by many without realizing that it can lead to other health problems. You've shared information that would let us all understand RLS.

I've read in an article before that aside from pregnancy, another cause of it can also be hereditary. It may run in the families especially if this disorder started at an early age. It also mentioned that kidney failure and iron deficiency may worsen RLS. The patient should try to cutback or stop using caffeine, alcohol or tobacco to help relieve pain.

Have a great week!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 02, 2010:

Love to Read, I think pregnancy is a common time for this disease to start. Valium is a muscle relaxer so I would think it would help. I pray this won't get any worse for you as I know it can drive you nuts. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

Loves To Read on November 02, 2010:

Great topic Pamela, i first started with RLS when i was pregnant and used to have to get up and walk around. Over the years it has become worse. I tend to get it more when i am over tired or sitting for extended periods of time. Such as long car trips.

My Doctor prescribed me valium which i only take when i really need to. Thanks for sharing.

Love and Blessings

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 01, 2010:

Audry, Thanks for the comment. My sister has this problem and it is aggravating. As it Griffin that is just too funny!

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on November 01, 2010:

Great info on a very aggravating problem, Pamela. I know some folks who have this and it can be really annoying trying to get comfortable - hence the insomnia.

As a side note, I am NOT showing this pic of the dog to Griffin because he will only get MORE ideas on how to be lounging about after one of his snacks from my kitchen counters!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 01, 2010:

Prasetio, Thank you so much for your comment. You are always so kind.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on November 01, 2010:

Dear, Pamela. You always bringing valuable information like this one. Actually I never knew about this before. But again, I learn much from you. Vote up as usual.


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on November 01, 2010:

Kanav, Thank you for your excellent suggestion and your comments.

Kanav from Matrix on November 01, 2010:

Nice article Pamela. I would like to advocate the usage of Mahanarayana Oil / Ashwagandha oil or even the humble Sesame Oil as daily self massage before bath. Apply it for 30 minutes and then shower it off.

It helps. Cheers!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 31, 2010:

drpastorcarlotta, Stretching periodically might also help Thanks for your comment.

Pastor Dr Carlotta Boles from BREAKOUT MINISTRIES, INC. KC on October 31, 2010:

There you go again with great informational health advice! I thought something was wrong with my legs and I told my doctor and he told me I needed to exercise more! lol, lol, lol, I sit at my computer a lot! lol, lol, I voted-up!!

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 30, 2010:

Hello, I appreciate your comment as always.

JY, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub and thank you for your comment.

John Young from Florence, South Carolina on October 30, 2010:

Good hub Pamela. You do good work!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 30, 2010:

Thank you, Pamela, for such a splendid and helpful article.

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 30, 2010:

Quill, I hope Mrs. Quill gets a medication that works. Thank you for your comment.

Chris, Thanks for your comment.

carolina muscle from Charlotte, North Carolina on October 29, 2010:

This was an interesting article, Pamela, thanks!!!

"Quill" on October 29, 2010:

Hi Pam...

Sent this one to Mrs. Quill who has this, she has been taking a drug called Requip... now it is all but gone... terrible affliction...


Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 29, 2010:

I'm glad you found the hub helpful, although it sounds like you know what to do when it happens. I'm glad your case is mild. Thanks for your comment.

saddlerider1 on October 29, 2010:

I love the picture of that totally relaxed dog, he sure doesn't appear to have any leg problems the way he is stretched out to the max:0))

I get it periodically and I have to get up and walk around a bit in the middle of the night, I find if I lean against a wall and stretch for a bit it goes away.

Thank goodness I don't get it to often, the massage therapy video was excellent and that certainly helps for sure. Great hub and great information much appreciated. I rate it UP

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 29, 2010:

drbj, As always I appreciate your comments.

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 29, 2010:

It looks like restless leg syndrome can be very hazardous to the health . . . of your partner.

Thanks for the interesting explanations, Pamela. Love the tired dog photo. Used the same pic in my hub "Photos of Really Tied Animals."

Pamela Oglesby (author) from Sunny Florida on October 29, 2010:

Tom, It is really good that you can control the discomfort that way. I appreciate your comments.

Coolmon Thanks so much for your comment and the tweet.

Dusty, I know people that us that for rest but I didn't see it on the drugs listed for RLS. Thanks so much for your comment.

Diamond, It seems that quite often there is a price to be paid for taking medications and we all have different tolerances. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

Bob Diamond RPh from Charlotte, NC USA on October 29, 2010:

I had something similar to RLS periodically, until I finally realized that it was due to a side-effect of Benadryl. I can take 25mg, but 50mg is a no-no for me. Apparently it is due, in my case, to vaso-constrictive oxygen depletion associated with anti-histaminic effects.

50 Caliber from Arizona on October 29, 2010:

Pamela, great hub on a real topic, just ask me :) I didn't see it but the drug Amitryptalyne at bedtime rocks, 50

Coolmon2009 from Texas, USA on October 29, 2010:

Good information on restless leg syndrome. I will tweet this article.

Tom Whitworth from Moundsville, WV on October 29, 2010:


Many of these symptoms of RLS are similar to those I experience from the HN in my legs from shingles and I find self hypnosis and relaxation therapy work for me.

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