Restless Legs Syndrome

by Connie Limon

Author: Connie Limon

An irresistible urge to move the legs is called "Restless Legs Syndrome." The urge to move the legs is usually due to unpleasant feelings in the legs that occur when at rest. Movement eases the feelings for a while. Although symptoms mostly affect in the legs, they can also affect the arms.

There are two types of restless legs syndrome, they are:

1.Primary: Cause is not know, but tends to run in families, and is the most common

2.Secondary: Caused by another disease or condition or by taking certain medicines.

Restless legs syndrome is common in pregnant women and usually occurs during the last months of pregnancy. It usually improves or disappears within a few weeks after delivery.

People with restless legs syndrome describe their symptoms with words like creeping, crawling, tingling or burning sensations. The unpleasant feelings may also occur in the arms.

People with RLS often don't get enough sleep because RLS can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. They are often tired and sleepy during the day which makes it difficult to:

•Concentrate, learn and remember things


•Carry out other usual daily activities

•Take part in family and social activities

Not getting enough sleep can also cause depression or mood swings.

People with RLS usually also have a condition called periodic limb movement disorder. PLMD is characterized by leg twitching or jerking uncontrollably about every 10 to 60 seconds usually during sleep. The legs are usually most affected, but PLMD can also affect the arms.

Although RLS is unpleasant and uncomfortable, there are some simple self-care approaches and lifestyle changes that can help in mild cases. RLS symptoms often improve with medical treatment. There is ongoing research to better understand the causes of RLS and to develop better treatments.

Medicines that can cause RLS

RLS symptoms usually go away when medicine is stopped, if the RLS symptoms are actually caused by the medicine. You should never stop taking any kind of medicine that is prescribed by your doctor unless he or she instructs you to do so. Medicines that can cause RLS are:

•Antiseizure medicines

•Antinausea medicines


•Some cold and allergy medicines

Other substances that can cause RLS symptoms or make them worse include:




Although RLS affects both men and women, the disorder occurs more often in women than in men. The age group in which RLS mostly occurs is middle age; however, in up to two out of every five cases, the symptoms of RLS begin before age 20. People who develop RLS early in life usually have a family history of the disorder. The disorder is also more common in persons of northern European descent.

Signs and Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome include:

•An almost irresistible urge to move the legs or arms when sitting or lying down

•An unpleasant feeling in the legs

•Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep because of the unpleasant feelings in the legs or arms

•Daytime sleepiness that results from a lack of restful sleep due to the repeated limb movements

Restless legs syndrome gets its name from the urge to move the legs when sitting or lying down. Typical movements include:

•Pacing and walking

•Jiggling the legs

•Stretching and flexing

•Tossing and turning

•Rubbing the legs

To help your doctor take a medical history, and to provide you with an appropriate diagnosis, provide him or her with answers to the following questions:

•Can you describe your symptoms?

•When did your symptoms first begin?

•When during the day or night do the symptoms usually occur?

•When are your symptoms worse?

•Do symptoms interfere with your sleep?

•What time do you go to bed and get up?

•What is your routine before going to bed?

•What kind of noise, light, interruptions are there in the room where you sleep?

•Do you snore?

•Are you tired and sleepy when you wake up and during the day?

•Do you have trouble concentrating?

•Do you doze off or have difficult staying awake doing routine tasks, especially while driving?

•Do other members of your family have similar symptoms?

•What medicines (over-the-counter and prescription) do you take?

•Do you gasp for air during sleep?

•Do you use caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol?

Listed below are some lifestyle changes to improve and relieve symptoms of RLS:

•Avoid things that can make symptoms of RLS worse such as tobacco, alcohol, foods and beverages that contain caffeine such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and some soft drinks

•Medicines: Only at the advice of your doctor should you stop taking medicines that have been specifically prescribed for you. There are some medicines that can make the symptoms of RLS worse and they include: Antidepressants, antinausea medicines, antipsychotic medicines, antihistamines.

•Adopt good sleep habits such as keeping your bedroom or sleep area cool, quiet, comfortable and free of unnecessary light. Use your bedroom for sleeping, not for watching TV or using computers or the telephone. Go to bed every night at the same time and wake up at the same time every morning.

•Follow a program of moderate exercise

Other activities that may also help relieve symptoms include:

•Walking or stretching

•Taking a hot or cold bath

•Massaging the leg or arm

•Using heat or ice packs

Doctors prescribe medicines to treat RLS in people who:

•Have clearly defined symptoms

•Those who have symptoms that cannot be controlled by lifestyle and non-drug treatments.

There is no single medicine that is helpful in all persons with RLS. It sometimes takes several changes in medicines and dosages to find the best approach. Always talk to your doctor before taking any medicines or over-the-counter medicines for your symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved ropinirole to treat moderate to severe RLS.

Restless legs syndrome is very often a lifelong condition. The symptoms may come and go frequently or they may disappear completely for long periods of time. They may even get worse over time. Lifestyle changes and medicines can help control and relieve symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Discuss with your doctor about lifestyle changes and medicines that might help your symptoms. As research continues new treatments are being developed.

Source: The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Disclaimer: *This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a health problem. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Always consult with your health care provider about any kind of a health problem and especially before beginning any kind of an exercise routine.

This article is FREE to publish with the resource box. Article written 4-2007.

About the Author:
Author: Connie Limon, Trilogy Field Representative. Visit and sign up for a weekly nutrition and health tip. The article collection is available as FREE reprints for your newsletters, websites or blog. Visit to purchase an array of superior quality, safe and effective products inspired by nature, informed by science and created to improve the health of people, pets and the planet.

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