Have you ever found yourself fidgeting at night, unable to get to sleep? Do you have the irresistible urge to move your legs and ‘’scratch that itch’’? A lot of people are suffering from this, which is a very miserable experience because the uncontrollable urge has a huge negative impact on sleep quality. It may also be impacting your social life; you can’t go out for dinner or to watch a film without having to confront the urge, eventually defeating you and making you stand up.

You may be searching for answers in frustration. There is a lot of material on the internet about the condition, but where do you turn? Who do you speak with to establish the best cure for you? We have written this blog to help you understand what it is, and hopefully, establish the best sure for you.

What is it?

Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder whereby the sufferer experiences sleep disruption and limb movements (1). There are no magical tests for it, but there are criteria you can check to see if you may suffer. The acronym is URGE:

  • U – Urge. You have an urge to get up and move
  • R – Rest. You usually get symptoms when resting
  • G – Get up. The symptoms go when you get up
  • E – Evening. Your symptoms are usually at night.

More specifically, some of the sensations may include:

  • Itching
  • Throbbing
  • Pulling 
  • Pins and needles
  • Electric shocks

It is a very common condition, where 10% of the general population experience it.  It is also twice as common in females than in males (2). You are also more likely to suffer from it if you have depression or anxiety (4).

Why does it happen?

Stress

Stress is an exacerbating factor in many conditions, but there is a high association with depression and anxiety in restless leg syndrome.

Genetic

Are you suffering alongside your mum or grandparents? This has been shown to be a factor in restless leg syndrome.

Low iron levels

This is typically seen in anaemic people and young menstruating women. Iron deficiencies can affect dopamine in the brain, which is a chemical crucial for movement.

Nerve damage

Diabetes and neuropathy can also cause restless leg syndrome.

Other medications

Antihistamines can make the condition worse, and some patients take it to actually help ease the disorder (5).

How can we help?

First of all, I want to express empathy – restless leg syndrome is highly frustrating and upsetting. It is important that you don’t feel embarrassed about the condition; it is very common, and you’d be surprised by how many people behind the scenes are suffering from it. I also want to propose 5 research-based interventions:

Manual therapy

Studies have shown that treating tender joints can improve symptoms over time, while taking mediation (6). 

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy can help with restless leg syndrome by treating the anxiety and depression that may be causing or exacerbating the issue. Channelling your thoughts away from the symptoms and the distress it may be causing you.

Exercise

Exercise has been shown to be useful in reducing the symptoms of restless leg syndrome (7) – what’s more, it’s free!

Conclusion

Although this is an incredibly stressful and seemingly hopeless disorder, I hope this blog has shown that there are natural remedies that can help. In my experience, I’ve found that a variety of treatments can work. The key is to be open-minded and not to give up if results don’t become apparent right away. Finally, as with all issues we treat, self-care and doing the exercises make a massive difference in combatting any condition.

For any further questions, please don’t hesitate to ask:

0161 209 2980

info@movementandwellbeingclinic.co.uk

Ed Madeley M.Ost

References 

  1. Coccagna G1Vetrugno RLombardi CProvini F. (2004) Restless legs syndrome: an historical note. Sleep Med. ;5(3):279-83.
  2. Yee. B., Killick, R., Wong, K. (2009). Restless Leg Syndrome. Australian Family Physician 38(5):296-300
  3. Scholz H, Benes H, Happe S, Bengel J, Kohnen R, Hornyak M., (2011). Psychological distress of patients suffering from restless legs syndrome: a cross-sectional study. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 20; 9():73.
  4. S Sevim, O Dogu, H Kaleagasi, M Aral, O Metin, H C¸ (2003) Correlation of anxiety and depression symptoms in patients with restless legs syndrome: a population based survey amdeviren Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 2004;75:226–230
  5. https://www.webmd.com/brain/restless-legs-syndrome/restless-legs-syndrome-rls#
  6. Peters, T., MacDonald, R., Leach, C.M.J. (2012). Counterstrain manipulation in the treatment of restless leg syndrome: a pilor single-blind randomised control trial; the CARL trial. ‘International Musculoskeletal Medicine’ 34(4):136-140.
  7. Aukerman MMAukerman DBayard MTudiver FThorp LBailey B. (2006). Exercise and restless legs syndrome: a randomized controlled trial. J Am Board Fam Med. 19(5):487-93.