9 Sure Ways to Deal with Restless Legs

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Rest­less legs syn­drome is an unpleas­ant con­di­tion when you real­ly want to sleep, and at the same time the legs live their own busy lives, pre­vent­ing their own­er from falling asleep. What is this syn­drome and how can you cope with rest­less legs, Healthy­in­fo fig­ured out.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

With rest­less legs syn­drome, a per­son suf­fers from a vari­ety of unpleas­ant sen­sa­tions in the legs. These sen­sa­tions include itch­ing, burn­ing, tin­gling, goose­bumps, a feel­ing of full­ness or, con­verse­ly, squeez­ing. RLS most com­mon­ly affects the low­er legs, but it can spread to the thighs and even the arms. In most cas­es, RLS affects both limbs, but it can also be uni­lat­er­al. At the peak of dis­com­fort come in the peri­od from 22 pm to 2 am.

The first doc­u­ment­ed men­tion of a dis­ease that man­i­fests itself as unpleas­ant sen­sa­tions in the legs, makes the patient move and does not allow sleep, occurs in 1685. But the actu­al term “rest­less legs” was pro­posed in 1045 by a neu­rol­o­gist from Swe­den K.A. Ekbom. There­fore, this pathol­o­gy is also called Ekbom’s syn­drome.

This dis­ease is com­mon, but it is diag­nosed quite rarely. Russ­ian sci­en­tists from the I.M. Sechen­ov Moscow Med­ical Acad­e­my in their arti­cle for 2009 cite data that 81% of peo­ple who go to the doc­tor with man­i­fes­ta­tions of RLS receive an incor­rect diag­no­sis or are left with­out one at all. And only in 8% of cas­es, doc­tors cor­rect­ly iden­ti­fy the prob­lem.

Over­all, 2% to 10% of the pop­u­la­tion suf­fers from RLS. More often these are women and peo­ple aged: in the age cat­e­go­ry 65+, 10–30% of the pop­u­la­tion suf­fers from RLS. But Ekbom’s syn­drome can also devel­op in chil­dren. In addi­tion, dur­ing the peri­od of bear­ing a child, every fourth woman suf­fers from RLS, and most often the dis­ease over­takes expec­tant moth­ers in the third trimester and dis­ap­pears after child­birth.

Doc­tors advise the fol­low­ing ways to com­bat the man­i­fes­ta­tions of rest­less legs syn­drome.

Check the level of iron in the blood

Check the level of iron in the blood

One pos­si­ble cause of RLS may be low iron lev­els in the blood. We need iron to pro­duce recep­tors for the neu­ro­trans­mit­ter dopamine. If there are few such recep­tors, dopamin­er­gic neu­rons work with impair­ments. In addi­tion, iron is involved in the process of myeli­na­tion — the for­ma­tion of a myelin “insu­lat­ing” sheath around the process­es of neu­rons. There­fore, its lack affects the con­duc­tion of the nerve impulse. By the way, iron defi­cien­cy is the cause of a quar­ter of cas­es of RLS in preg­nant women.

In case of iron defi­cien­cy (the con­cen­tra­tion of its fer­ritin com­pound in serum is less than 50 mcg / l), the doc­tor may pre­scribe med­ica­tions with fer­ritin.

Check your medications

A group of sci­en­tists from India and Ger­many, in an August 2016 arti­cle, list med­ica­tions that have rest­less leg syn­drome as side effects or that may exac­er­bate exist­ing RLS. These are some anti­de­pres­sants, antipsy­chotics, beta-block­ers, dopamine antag­o­nists, anti-nau­sea drugs, anti­his­t­a­mines, anti­con­vul­sants, L‑thyroxine, lithi­um.

If you are tak­ing any of the above and are suf­fer­ing from RLS, you should talk to your doc­tor about a replace­ment.

Changing sleep and wake patterns

Doc­tors rec­om­mend that peo­ple suf­fer­ing from RLS try to go to bed lat­er and wake up lat­er in order to main­tain the required amount of sleep. This will allow you to make up for the time lost in the evening in the morn­ing dur­ing a good sleep.

At the same time, the new reg­i­men (or the pre­vi­ous one) should be strict­ly adhered to — this facil­i­tates the process of falling asleep. In no case should RLS reduce the dura­tion of sleep below the estab­lished norms, that is, sleep less than 7–9 hours. Sleep depri­va­tion exac­er­bates rest­less legs syn­drome.

Warm bath before bed

Warm bath before bed

The best way to relax the mus­cles, relieve spasm of mus­cle fibers is to take a warm bath. But not hot. A warm bath is known to improve sleep in gen­er­al, and this is espe­cial­ly true in the case of RLS.

Stretching before bed

Before you lie down, take 5–10 min­utes of light stretch­ing. You can do it after a warm bath, when the mus­cles and lig­a­ments are warmed up. There is no need to make sud­den move­ments — only sta­t­ic exer­cis­es.

The main goal is to stretch the calves and thigh mus­cles. This can be done with lunges, keep­ing the back leg straight; slopes to the front leg with a straight set back; folds with socks stretched over them­selves, etc.

Stretch­ing should be done on both legs on both sides.

Physical activity during the day

Not only stretch­ing before bed, but also suf­fi­cient phys­i­cal activ­i­ty dur­ing the day can reduce the symp­toms of RLS. We are talk­ing about mod­er­ate reg­u­lar phys­i­cal activ­i­ty, which should end no lat­er than 3–4 hours before bed­time. Research shows that any form of exer­cise reduces leg mobil­i­ty in peo­ple with RLS and results in deep­er, longer sleep.

So, in 2006, sci­en­tists from Penn­syl­va­nia State Uni­ver­si­ty in their arti­cle pro­vid­ed evi­dence that even half an hour of aer­o­bic train­ing three times a week with weights of the low­er extrem­i­ties sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduces the man­i­fes­ta­tions of RLS.

Avoiding caffeine

Any caf­feinat­ed bev­er­ages (cof­fee, tea, cola, choco­late) pro­vide a burst of ener­gy and exac­er­bate the symp­toms of RLS with­in a few hours after drink­ing (for some peo­ple, the dura­tion of caf­feine effect can be up to 12 hours).

Stress management

Stress exac­er­bates the symp­toms of RLS. If the day turned out to be dif­fi­cult, be sure to take time to relieve stress. It can be breath­ing exer­cis­es, med­i­ta­tion. Before going to bed, you can dim the lights, turn off the TV with dis­turb­ing blue light and pan­ic news, lis­ten to relax­ing, sooth­ing music.

Foot massage

As men­tioned above, rest­less legs syn­drome most often affects the calves. To reduce the symp­toms of RLS, you can mas­sage the calves before bed and add foot mas­sage to them. If pos­si­ble, ask some­one close to mas­sage your shoul­ders and neck as well — this also relieves ten­sion and reduces stress.

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con­clu­sions

    In the vast majority of cases, the manifestations of restless legs syndrome can be dealt with without medication, only through the above methods.
    However, in 10–15% of cases, medical treatment may be necessary. But it should be borne in mind that such therapy can only be symptomatic, it will not relieve the syndrome itself and will therefore be lifelong.

Exer­cise and rest­less legs syn­drome: a ran­dom­ized con­trolled tri­al. / Auk­er­man MM, et al. // J Am Board Fam Med. - 2006 Sep-Oct - 19(5):487–93

By Yraa

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