Sometimes it’s hard to sit still for long periods of time without moving around. This urge to move is natural. It’s a feeling that helps keep your blood and lymph fluids circulating in your body when you have to sit through a long flight or a boring movie. What’s not natural is when it’s accompanied by pain, burning and a “creeping” sensation; an incredibly uncomfortable feeling that leaves you only two options, move or hit the ceiling. If this happens, especially later in the day or close to bedtime, it’s most likely you’re contending with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). If you add stress or upset to the mix, the symptoms can get much worse. So far, doctors don’t know what causes it in most patients but the good news is research is working to find the answer; possible a faulty gene that may produce RLS between generations of the same family. Keep your fingers crossed that an answer is on the horizon.
Risk Factors for RLS
More so than others, the following risk factors increase your chances of experiencing RLS:
- Peripheral neuropathy (diabetes) – explain peripheral nerve disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Iron deficiency
- Use of certain medications (H2-histamine blockers, antidepressants), caffeine and alcohol
Typical RLS Symptoms
- Pain in the legs, irresistible urge to move them, “creeping/crawling” sensations, itching, cramping, burning
- Worse later in the day (after sitting for long periods), early evening to bedtime, feel it more when you sit still
- Involuntary movement during sleep
- Disturbs your sleep and that of your partner
- Inability to sit comfortably for long periods (air travel, classes, car travel, long meetings)
- Stress and upset makes symptoms worse
RLS can lead to a decreased quality of sleep and possibly insomnia. From there it becomes a real “catch 22”; insomnia can lead to anxiety, decreased mental function, higher blood pressure, and possible depression. Depression can lead to antidepressants and they can actually exacerbate RLS symptoms. It’s best to meet with your primary health care provider sooner rather than later to discuss your options. Another reason to discuss your symptoms is because RLS can mimic other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, fibromyalgia, muscle disease and joint conditions. In a child, RLS can be misdiagnosed as “growing pains”. However, it should be noted that RLS is not dangerous or life-threatening and rarely is a sign of an underlying serious disorder.
Treatments and Options
You primary health care provider has quite a list of prescription medications to choose from when it comes to quieting symptoms of RLS. However, there are natural options available to you as well.
Research indicates that the needle-based traditional Chinese therapy of acupuncture may help relieve RLS. And in a 2007 study, scientists found that receiving massage therapy that targets the lower body could help ward off RLS symptoms for several weeks. If stress aggravates your RLS symptoms, you may also wish to try Reflexology. A few gentle stretching exercises (nothing strenuous before bed) followed by a warm, relaxing bath before bedtime.
Increasing your intake of magnesium may help as a deficiency of magnesium interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, causing irritability and nervousness. Magnesium also helps prevent depression and muscle twitching. Foods high in magnesium include bananas, brown rice, salmon and whole grains. Try a soothing herbal tea before bed such a chamomile or raspberry leaf, both of which contain magnesium.
Considerable evidence suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in the brain’s basal ganglia circuits that use the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease, another disorder of the basal ganglia’s dopamine pathways, often have RLS as well. 1
If your sleep is disrupted because of the RLS, you might consider trying a natural sleep aid such as Natural Factors Tranquil Sleep ®.
Nutter’s Can Suggest…
Calcium is required for strong bones, teeth and cardiac function. Calcium not only builds strong bones and teeth but maintains bone density and strength. It helps to regulate heartbeat, blood clotting and muscle contraction. As well as protecting the body from stress, magnesium works with calcium to provide help to these same body systems and participates in more than 50 different biochemical reactions. That’s why magnesium is so important to bone formation, nerve and muscle transmission, and energy production. Studies show that mineral citrates and malates have superior absorption, especially when taken on an empty stomach. Each tablet has calcium and magnesium in a one-to-one ratio that many health care practitioners now recommend.
1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health
2. Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fourth Edition, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC
Carol Roy is a Natural Health Practitioner, registered with Natural Health Practitioners Canada, who received her diploma from the Alternative Medicine College of Canada in Montreal, Quebec. With 10 years experience in her area of expertise, naturopathic medicine, Carol has also trained to become a fully qualified Reiki Master, Quantum Touch ® Practitioner and Reflexologist.
The suggestions by Nutter’s Bulk & Natural Foods and the contents of this article
are recommendations only and not a substitute for any medical advice or a
replacement for any prescriptions. Seek medical advice for any health concerns.
Consult your health care provider before using any recommendations herein.