Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), which often appears in otherwise healthy people, is not related to emotional or mental problems. As the name suggests, the symptoms mostly affect the legs, but the arms and (rarely) trunk may also be involved.
People experience RLS in many different ways, but most describe very unpleasant sensations that occur in the legs (most often the calves) when they are sitting or lying still, especially in the evening or at bedtime. If you have RLS you know it is not like the pain of a leg cramp, but you may have difficulty describing the exact feeling. However, virtually everyone with this disorder reports that the uncomfortable feelings are temporarily relieved by stretching or moving the legs.
The sensations caused by RLS are often disturbing enough to cause insomnia. The constant need to stretch or move the legs to get rid of the discomfort often prevents a person with RSL from falling asleep. As a result, these individuals may be extremely tired during the day and unable to perform well at work or take part in social activities. RLS also occurs in children, where it can affect their schoolwork and may cause symptoms that are confused with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
What to Do
Home remedies are effective for some people with RLS. These remedies include: hot bath, leg massage, applied heat, ice packs, aspirin or other over the counter pain relievers, regular exercise, and the elimination of caffeine or tobacco. When home remedies are not effective, RLS may be treated with prescription medication. If you think you need prescription medication, please see your healthcare provider or one of our board certified sleep specialists.
There is no known cure for restless leg syndrome.
Treatment is aimed at reducing stress and helping the muscles relax. The following techniques may help:
Low doses of pramipexole (Mirapex) or ropinirole (Requip) can be very effective at controlling symptoms in some people.
If your sleep is severely disrupted, you may be presecribed medications such as Sinemet (an anti-Parkinson's medication), gabapentin and pregabalin, or tranquilizers such as clonazepam. However, these medications may cause daytime sleepiness.
Patients with iron deficiency should receive iron supplements.
Low doses of narcotics may sometimes relieve symptoms of restless legs syndrome.