Restless Leg Syndrome, often abbreviated as RLS, is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes an almost-irresistible urge to move them. Also referred to as the Willis-Ekbom disease, this syndrome is characterized by symptoms that include a creepy sensation in the legs, incessant throbbing as well as a pulling sensation. These symptoms tend to peak in the early morning or late night when it is cold.
The sensations also range from slight discomfort, to annoyance to downright irritating pain. The most unusual thing about this symptom, perhaps, is the fact that resting or lying down seems to trigger the sensations. As a result, most people who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome tend to have a difficult time sleeping. If left unchecked, the condition leads to inexplicable fatigue and utter exhaustion.
This interferes with one’s personal life, relationships and career, largely due to the lack of sleep. Other factors that contribute to these changes include inability to concentrate, poor memory and failure to carry out daily tasks. Some factors that trigger RLS include sitting for long periods of time, taking long road trips without breaks as well as the use of a cast for broken legs.
The exact cause of RLS remains unknown, but it is thought to be linked inextricably to chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease. For this reason, it is important to get a proper diagnosis. Listed below are some of the home remedies recommended for the natural treatment of RLS.
1. Set of Light Exercises:
Time Required: 30 Min.
What You Need: A comfortable place to stretch as well as appropriate gear for your preferred routine.
RLS has long been associated with the unrelenting urge to move the feet, hence the name of the syndrome. Consequently, a sedentary lifestyle that involves lots of sitting or lying down for long periods of time predisposes one to intense symptoms. It therefore comes as no surprise that light exercises are a handy way to treat the symptoms of RLS. As a general guide, been active for at least half an hour daily will go a long way in benefitting the affected legs as well as alleviating its symptoms.
- Of the different exercises available, stretching exercises have been shown to be extremely beneficial for those suffering from RLS.
- These exercises help relieve the urge to walk, and are easy to do when targeted at the legs.
- It also helps to indulge in gentle exercises such as walking at a comfortable pace and light jogging. The key to doing this is to avoid exerting undue pressure as this will only worsen the symptoms linked to RLS. For this reason, you must avoid vigorous exercises or intense workouts that are likely to stress the body and increase fatigue. If possible, avoid workouts in the evening when the symptoms of RLS are known to peak. Instead, opt for gentle exercises earlier on during the day.
- The preferred set of exercises must not cause over-exertion especially when there are chronic illnesses.
2. Rest and Meditation:
Time Required: Varies from one person to another, but usually lasts 15 minutes
What You Need: A quiet place to rest. Extras include a pen and journal
Chronic stress, coupled with the demands of present-day lifestyle place undue stress on the life of a person suffering from RLS. This is because long term stress is known to keep the muscles of the legs consistently tense, thus making worse the symptoms of the condition. One of the most beneficial ways of dealing with stress is to take a break from one’s busy schedule and simply rest and meditate.
- Taking some time to rest and meditate helps lower stress levels and keeps one in sync with their inner man.
- This in turn, reduces the stress experienced in the muscles of the legs, and helps relieve Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Most people find it helpful to combine meditation with journaling to ease the stress and make it easy to get on with life despite Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Take a pen and book and journal away to less intense symptoms of RLS.
3. Massage the Legs:
Time Required: 20 Min
What You Need: Preferred oil and a water bath to warm the oil. It is preferable if someone else does the massage for best results
Massaging the legs has been shown to be an effective home remedy for the management of RLS. This is because the massage not only encourages blood flow to the affected legs, it also relaxes the affected muscles. This is particularly helpful because it prevents muscular tension which intensifies the symptoms. It is possible for one to carry out self-massage, but the best results are obtained when one gets the massage done by another person. It helps to get professional massage services.
- The preferred oil for the massage session is warmed in a water bath for easy absorption into the skin.
- The masseuse will then use varied massage techniques to help improve RLS.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Time Required: 5 Min
What You Need: N/A
One of the recommended ways to make steady progress with RLS is to practice a technique known as Progressive Muscle relaxation. Just as the name suggests, this is a technique that embraces a number of practices carried out regularly, and intended to relax the legs and deal with the symptoms. Listed below is a step-by-step guide to making this remedy effective over a long period of time.
- Inhale as deeply as you can for about 2 minutes.
- Next, tighten the muscles in your feet so that you are able to feel the tension exerted.
- Hold this position for 5 seconds and then release to allow the muscles to relax.
- Tighten the muscles in the calf area for 5 seconds and them relax.
- Repeat step iv) above, but this time using the muscles in your thighs.
- Carry on with this tense-hold-relax pattern for the upper body until you have done so for your facial muscles.
- The end aim of this technique is to relax the whole body, and therefore ensure less intense symptoms normally associated with RLS.
5. Create a Bedtime Routine:
Time Required: Varies from one person to another
What You Need: Conscious efforts to make a standard sleep routine
The symptoms of RLS are known to worsen with poor sleeping habits and fatigue. While there is a direct interrelation between this disorder and fatigue, it is important to know that the symptoms are intensified when one is exhausted. To avoid this, it helps to create a bedtime routine that allows as much sleep as possible.
- Try as much as possible to go to bed and wake up at around the same time every day. This not only helps the body adjust, it also makes it easy to maintain good sleep patterns. More importantly, this solution works differently for different people. Some people find that going to bed late and waking up much later in the day on a regular basis, helps keep off the symptoms of RLS.
- It also helps to keep a sleep journal if you are having difficulties finding out what works and what does not.
- Remember to ensure that the sleeping area is quiet and dark to make it easy to fall asleep. White noise is often a great addition to the sleeping area as it lulls one to sleep.
- Some people find it helpful to engage in activities that challenge the mind such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku. This may not work for everyone though.
- Another handy tip in ensuring that you maintain a sleeping routine is making sure that you keep off all gadgets.
- These include smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions. Reducing screen time is a proven way of improving one’s sleeping routine.
6. Use a Hot and Cold Compress
Time Required: 20-30 Min
What You Need: A few ice cubes, a clean cloth and hot water bottle.
Hot and cold compresses have long been used in the treatment of conditions that cause inflammation. The hot compress works by reducing the tension present in the legs, therefore allowing for relaxation. A cold compress on the other hand, reduces the pain and discomfort in the affected leg.
While the remedies may be used separately, alternating the hot and cold compresses has been shown to be remarkably effective in dealing with the creeping discomfort. In the absence of a hot water bottle, any other bottle may be used provided it is filled with hot water and wrapped with a towel as described in the steps below.
- Wrap the ice cubes using the clean cloth. This is done to prevent the ice from coming into direct contact with the skin which increases the risk of getting frostbites.
- Massage the ice pack on the affected leg for some 5 minutes.
- Set the pack aside and take the hot compress. As mentioned above, you may use a hot water bottle which does not require you to wrap with a towel since it is designed for direct skin contact. If, however, you need to use a plastic bottle filled with water, make sure it is wrapped in a towel to prevent the risk of burning.
- Apply the hot compress for 5 minutes, and massage gently on the legs.
- Alternate this with the cold pack for a short while, and then the hot pack.
- Do this until you get much-needed relief from the symptoms of RLS.
7. Change Your Diet:
Time Required: Varies from one person to another.
What You Need: To make diet changes, and if need be, add select supplements to the daily food intake.
Despite the fact that RLS has not been linked to any specific causes, research shows that it is likely to be related to mineral imbalances. When there is a shortage of minerals in the body, normal metabolic reactions are interfered with, particularly those in the muscles. To counter this, it becomes important to add different supplements to reduce deficiencies as well as manage RLS. Below are some handy tips to consider when adding supplements to the daily diet.
NOTE: It may not be possible to recommend dosages below as the need for supplements varies from one person to another. Consult your doctor for proper guidance on using supplements, especially if there are other pre-existing medical conditions.
Tips when Adding Supplements
- Magnesium, Calcium and Potassium are key minerals in the body as they are directly involved in muscle function. A deficiency in any of these minerals is set to cause increased creepiness as well as twitch the legs.
- Increase the amount of folic acid you take. Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that helps increase the amount of red blood cells in the body. Red blood cells play a key role in supplying oxygenated blood to different parts of the body. This is important because studies have linked RLS to a decrease in the amount of oxygenated blood. Some of the foods that have a high concentration of folic acid include beans, kale, orange juice and spinach among others.
- In the same breath, increase the amount of iron in the body. Iron is a key part of Myoglobin, the specific protein that packs up oxygen in the muscles until it is needed. Iron deficiency means that there is little supply of oxygen to the muscles in the legs, which in turn increases the twitch.
- Lastly, eat a balanced diet to ensure proper supply of nutrients in the body.
In addition to the home remedies listed above, it is important to avoid the risk factors that increase the symptoms of RLS. These factors include alcohol intake, smoking and caffeine intake. The use of drugs is also known to make the condition worse.
While prescription medication may not be avoided in entirety, it is important to consult your doctor before making any withdrawals. This also makes it possible to get alternatives for key drugs without suffering adverse side-effects. Regular use of the remedies mentioned above goes a long way in helping manage the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome