According to the National Institutes of Health, Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS, is “a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrolled urge to move when at rest in an effort to relieve these feelings.” Most people get these sensations in the evening, especially when trying to fall asleep. The symptoms usually disappear by the morning.
The B vitamins are necessary for proper nerve function. Because of this, those with RLS should supplement their diet with adequate amounts of the B vitamins. Even if you are taking a multiple vitamin, I would recommend an addition B vitamin tablet, like a B-100, just to be sure you are getting enough. These vitamins are water soluble and any extra will be removed from your body. If you are taking extra vitamin B and are not getting relief, you may need to have weekly injections of Vitamin B12. This must be prescribed by your doctor and should be used at a dose of about 2,000 mcg per week.
Some of my patients have noticed a decrease in their symptoms when taking additional magnesium at bedtime. I recommend 800mg of magnesium oxide a couple hours before you retire.
Researchers are discovering a few telltale signs of a person with RLS. Those with anemia or low iron are generally more at risk for developing RLS. Generally, when the anemia is corrected with supplemental iron tablets, there is a reduction in symptoms.
Other medical conditions are known to lead to RLS. Those with diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, or peripheral neuropathy have a higher incidence of RLS than others. Once these disease are under control, the symptoms of RLS are reduced or eliminated.
If you are predisposed to having RLS, alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine can make symptoms worse. It is known that these substances deplete the body of many of the B vitamins. Remember, soda has caffeine in it. If you are drinking Coke with your dinner, try Caffeine Free Coke.
Some suggestions that I’ve had from patients include a short walk around the house before bed; a warm, soothing bath; or relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation. One patient took 300mg of Valarian root before bed and swears that it relieved her RLS.
IF you feel you must go the prescription drug route, RLS can be controlled with a few different prescription medications. Usually first line therapy is a drug called levodopa. Levopoda is usually used for Parkinson’s disease but doctors and researchers have found that it is beneficial for those with RLS. One of the drawbacks of levodopa is that the effectiveness of the drug wears off over time and the doctor must switch to another medication. Once the levodopa stops working, other medications called “dopamine agonists” can be tried. These medications include Permax (pergolide), Mirapex (pramipexole), or Requip (ropinirole).
If the RLS is severe, the physician may want to try narcotic pain killers like codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone. Along with relieving pain, these medication cause sedation and help the body to relax.
Another medicinal approach is the use of anticonvulsants. These medications include Neurontin (gabapentin), Tegretal (carbamazepine), or Lyrica (pregabalin). These medications can be useful for the person who has the urge to move the legs but the legs are not painful.
The benzodiazepines are a class of medication that should only be used as a last resort for RLS. These include Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), and Klonopin (clonazepam). “Benzoes” can cause daytime sedation and may aggravate sleep apnea.
There is no one medication that is useful for everyone when it comes to RLS. If you suffer from this condition, just be aware that the first, or even the second, medication that you try may not be effective for you. With this condition, it takes a little trial and error to find a solution.
Perhaps that strangest “remedy” is the bar of soap under the sheet trick. There is absolutely no scientific way to prove the effectiveness but many people have found relief from this technique. They have placed a bar of soap under the bed sheet where their feet rest. I have no idea why or how this works (or even could work) but those who suffer say that it does. I’ll let you be the judge on that one.