Tomorrow (September 23) is the international day of awareness for Restless Legs Syndrome, otherwise known as RLS.
RLS is a neurological condition that gives sufferers uncontrollable leg movements, or urge to move the legs – a restlessness – especially while lying still, or trying to sleep. Symptoms are more pronounced at the end of the day, which also makes RLS a sleep disorder.
It has recently come to the forefront with millions of sufferers, even celebrities such as Keith Olbermann, former MSNBC talk show host who has been given a diagnosis of RLS. But, this is not a new condition, having been first identified 70 years ago, in 1945.
Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
- A strong impulse to move the legs, especially when sitting or laying in a prone position.
- Moving the legs or feet brings temporary relief.
- Legs have feelings of tremors or pulling, itching or like bugs under the skin.
- Involuntary jerking of the legs during the daytime, or kicking at night.
- Insomnia, or poor sleep patterns, as a result of leg tremors.
Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome
Your doctor can determine if RLS exists, although you may already have a good idea. Symptoms such as those above can assist in a diagnosis, however, there are no specific tests that can be used to make a definite diagnosis. Like other ‘experiential’ conditions, RLS is primarily diagnosed symptomatically – by how you describe your troubles to your doctor. Cramping and twitching of the legs, which worsens when the body is at rest, and tending to increase at the end of an active day, are typical complaints of a person suffering from RLS.
Relief for Restless Legs Syndrome
There are many contributors to RLS, such as diet, activity and lifestyle. Making certain changes can help alleviate symptoms, and there are many treatments available, including many Parkinson’s Disease medications that can help. Before seeking a medication solution, which can have side effects, it is recommended to try other self-help methods of relief.
- Moderate exercise for the lower body, such as swimming, walking or biking.
- Avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time.
- Stretches for the legs and lower back. Yoga and Pilates can be especially helpful.
- Pressure massage can be very helpful, from a sympathetic partner or with a lower leg massage machine.
- Swaddling the legs, or wearing compression socks is helpful for many sufferers.
- Sleeping with a large pillow between the legs can also bring relief.
- Steady sleep schedules can help reduce fatigue, which tends to worsen symptoms.
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, which can also make symptoms worse.
- Dietary supplements, especially Iron and Magnesium can eliminate symptoms.
- Avoid stress, take it easy. Mental stress can aggravate symptoms.
- If you are overweight, reducing caloric intake can reduce leg stress.
- Avoid OTC sleeping pills, anti-nausea medications and antihistamines.
Finally, a warm bath before bedtime, or a short session in a hot tub, can bring fast relief, especially when combined with light stretching of the calves, hips and thighs. If you suffer from lower back pain, symptoms of RLS are frequently associated with tension that begins in the lumbar or coccyx region, and radiates down the back of the thighs.
Hot tubs and Spas bring relief to millions of people suffering from a variety of conditions. Restless legs syndrome is just one more. Give it a try! If you don’t own a hot tub, don’t rush right out and buy one, but first try a week of 20 minute soaks in a hot bathtub, with some light leg stretches. Point and pull the toes, pull the knee up toward the chest.
Immediately after leaving the bathtub or hot tub, try a kneeling position, with a straight back, buttocks resting on your heels. Standing up, stretch the calves by placing both hands on the wall and leaning in slowly. Stretch the thighs by lifting up your leg behind you, and pulling your ankle toward the buttocks.
Hot Tub Works