Letter from the Editor: One thing I have discovered since getting older is that my body is changing, and how it reacts to stress and the daily activities I do often lead to aches and pains I never used to have. One particular problem I’ve been dealing with is restless leg syndrome.
At night my legs hurt me so badly that FD often has to rub them or I cannot go to sleep. The pain runs up and down my legs and is often caused by sitting for too long, blogging for hours, not stretching properly or even if I don’t eat right. And even then sometimes nothing works and I just suffer with it.
Guest Poster Sophie Banat has some interesting facts about restless leg syndrome that she is kindly sharing with all of us. Welcome Sophie and thanks for sharing your article with us!
5 Facts About Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that is thought to affect around seven per cent of the population. Despite the whimsical nature of its name, it is a genuine medical condition that can cause acute discomfort and sleep problems in those who suffer from it.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
The symptoms of restless leg syndrome are characterised by sensations in the legs, often at night, such as aches, tingling, itchiness, pulling and crawling. These sensations feel as though they are deep inside the leg, growing in magnitude until the sufferer feels compelled to move the affected limb or get up and move around, at which point the symptoms often stop briefly before starting to build in intensity again when movement stops. This cycle can be repeated for many minutes or hours, leading to significant disruption of sleep if it happens at night, even to those whose sleeping arrangements are otherwise comfortable, using for example wooden bed frames and contour-hugging mattresses.
Any movements are voluntary. There is, however, an associated condition called periodic limb movement disorder, which can cause involuntary movements of the leg, but restless leg syndrome on its own does not produce this effect.
No one knows why exactly, but women often experience the symptoms of restless leg syndrome in pregnancy, which then disappear after the birth. One theory is that iron levels are often low during pregnancy and it is thought that an iron deficiency can be one of the contributing factors in some cases of restless leg syndrome. A study in 2010 found that women who had suffered in this way once were more likely to suffer again in subsequent pregnancies or to develop a chronic form of the condition later on.
Restless leg syndrome can affect men and women of any age, but seems to be prevalent in those over the age of 65. Sufferers report that symptoms of the condition also worsen with age and those who are over the age of 50 will typically suffer some or all of the symptoms on a daily basis, including significant sleep disruption.
Restless leg syndrome cannot be diagnosed via a blood test; instead, suspected sufferers must meet four criteria. These include feeling the urge to move their legs because of uncomfortable sensations or aches. Urges must start or worsen while sitting or lying down and symptoms are improved to some degree, if not totally, by movement. They also tend to be at their worst overnight or in the evening.
Restless leg syndrome sufferers are tested for iron deficiencies and given iron supplements if necessary to try to relieve the worst of the symptoms. Boosting the body’s iron levels can also increase the level of dopamine in the brain, which can have a positive effect on the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. It is also thought that taking some other supplements, notably magnesium and folic acid, can help ease the symptoms.
Exercising on a regular basis is recommended to try to keep restless leg syndrome symptoms under some kind of control and many sufferers report a greater incidence of problems on days when they have not been very active.
Massage and stretching can also help in managing the condition, either when symptoms become painful or immediately before, but too much exercise can actually make RLS worse.
Disclosure: I was compensated for this guest post. We wish to thank Sophie for her contributing article and for sharing this information with us. Thanks for reading!