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Restless Legs Syndrome
Q.What is Restless Legs Syndrome and what should I try if I think I have it?
A. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that results in unpleasant twitching, burning, or pricking sensations in the legs that make sufferers want to constantly move their legs in order to try to avoid the sensations. It is also referred to as a sleep disorder, since people with symptoms of RLS typically have difficulty falling and staying asleep, resulting in daytime fatigue, low energy, and difficulty concentrating. It affects roughly 8-10% of Americans (according to EmedicineHealth.com). Periods of inactivity including working at a computer, flying across country, watching a movie or play, or distance commutes by car or train can all be extraordinarily uncomfortable.
While there is no single clinical diagnostic test for RLS, the following six suggestions may help alleviate some of the discomfort:
- Exercise! By adding some bodyweight squats, dips, or lunges, riding a bike, or going for a brisk walk close to bedtime, you help the body release endorphins that act as natural painkilling substances which can help you sleep better at night. Be sure to stretch the calves afterward (for suggestions see www.bodyresults.com/s2calves.asp including the 1-leg calf stretch).
- Try soaking feet in an ice bath or getting a gentle leg and foot massage. The worst case scenario? Even if it does not end up working so well for you, your feet and legs will enjoy it at the time.
- Increase iron, folate and magnesium levels to reduce the chance of any nutritional deficiencies, particularly iron-deficiency anemia (for more on that please see www.bodyresults.com/e2anemia.asp), which can make people more prone to developing RLS.
- Reduce consumption of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, all of which can aggravate symptoms for those people more likely to experience RLS.
- Seek appropriate therapies to help control the neurological disorder, which tends to worsen with age.
- Stay well hydrated, especially early in the day, but avoid drinking too much too close to bedtime as a full bladder may contribute to restless sleep and frequent waking.
The following organizations can provide more information:
Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation
819 Second Street, SW
Rochester, MN 55902-2985
National Sleep Foundation
1522 K Street NW
Washington, DC 20005