Restless Legs Syndrome

01 October 2014

Restless Legs Syndrome Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), is a common condition affecting the nervous system.
As many as one in ten of us will be affected by restless legs syndrome at some point in our lives.Women are twice as likely to develop restless legs syndrome than men. The condition is also more common in middle age, but the symptoms can develop at any age, including childhood.Restless legs syndrome (RLS) typically causes an overwhelming urge to move your legs and an uncomfortable sensation.In fact, a range of different sensations have been reported by people with restless legs syndrome, including:
  • tingling, burning, itching or throbbing
  • a 'creepy-crawly' feeling
  • feeling like fizzy water is inside the blood vessels in the legs
  • cramping in the calf's or legs
I have read texts where people describe the sensation as like "Coca-cola in their veins"!In the majority of cases, there is no obvious cause of restless legs syndrome. Some neurologists share the opinion that symptoms may have something to do with how the body handles a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine plays a role in controlling muscle movement and may be responsible for the involuntary leg movements associated with restless legs syndrome.Some cases of restless legs syndrome are caused by an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia, or kidney failure. Doctors may refer to this as secondary RLS. There is also a link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy and around one in five pregnant women will experience symptoms in the last three months of their pregnancy, although it is not clear exactly why. In this case, it often goes away once the woman has given birth. (usually within 4 weeks)
Treating RLS: 
The majority of cases of restless legs syndrome are not linked to an underlying health condition and may not require any treatment other than making a few lifestyle changes, such as:
  • adopting good sleep hygiene - for example, sleeping regular hours and avoiding alcohol and caffeine late at night
  • quitting smoking (if you smoke)
  • exercising regularly during the daytime

Blood tests:
If your GP suspects that you have restless legs syndrome, they may refer you for a number of blood tests to confirm or rule possible secondary underlying causes. For example, you may have blood tests to rule out health conditions such as anaemia, diabetes and problems with your kidney function.The most important blood test is to find out the levels of iron in your blood. Low levels of iron can be treated with iron tablets.During an attack of restless legs syndrome, you may find the following measures helpful in relieving symptoms:
  1. massaging your legs
  2. taking a hot bath in the evening
  3. applying a hot or cold compress to your leg muscles
  4. doing activities that distract your mind, such as reading or watching television
  5. relaxation exercises such as yoga or tai chi
  6. walking and stretching
In recent years, medical trials have shown osteopathy to be an effective treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome. In particular a technique known as positional release manipulation (PRM) or Strain-Counterstrain has shown to be of benefit.PRM is extremely gentle and involves holding different parts of the body in position that has been found to reduce feelings of discomfort and pain.
If you think you may be suffering from RLS it would be a good idea to visit your GP in the first instance to have blood tests to look for any previously undiagnosed potential causes, such as anaemia. 

If you wish to discuss how osteopathy can help you please call us on 02082038977

Tags: Counterstrain, PRM, Restless Legs Syndrome, Osteopathy

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