Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition of the nervous system. It causes an overwhelming and irresistible urge to move your legs and can also cause uncomfortable sensations in the feet, calves and thighs. These feelings are often worse in the evening or at night and RLS is associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms known as periodic limb movements during your sleep (PLMS).
In the majority of cases there is no obvious cause, although some specialists believe that the condition is linked to how the body reacts to a chemical called Dopamine. This chemical is involved in controlling muscle movement and naturally drops during the evenings as we prepare to sleep. Restless leg syndrome can also be caused by some long term health conditions – Iron deficiency anaemia, stress, lack of exercise or Pregnancy.
If symptoms are mild and not linked to any underlying health condition, treatment is usually based around lifestyle management. Good sleep habits, regular exercise and avoiding stimulants in the evening can all help. Symptoms can be relieved with gentle massage, a warm bath and relaxation exercises such as Yoga or Tai Chi. Some evidence suggests that a diet rich in Iron and Vitamin D can improve the situation along with Calcium and Magnesium supplements. These vitamins and minerals all help with blood flow, muscle strength and Dopamine production.
If symptoms are more severe or linked to another condition, medication (or a change to your current one) may be necessary so a visit to the Doctor is recommended if this condition is affecting you.
Please get in touch if you need help or advice about this common condition.