Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by the powerful urge to move your legs. Some people experience uncomfortable feelings in their legs–creeping, crawling, burning or tingling that is only relieved for a short time by moving them. For many cases of RLS, there is no known cause. Pregnancy and anemia are sometimes associated with RLS. RLS should be examined by a doctor, as it can indicate a more serious problem such as lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.
Exercise on a regular basis, avoiding overexertion or working out late in the day (preferably no later than six hours before bedtime). Overexertion can intensify restless legs symptoms. Many people with RLS find exercises that are self-directed or contain particular movements helpful. Helpful activities include walking, bending, rocking, pacing, stretching, massaging or “jiggling” the limb(s). If you suffer from restless legs during the night, take a gentle walk before going to bed (even if it is just around the bedroom).
Keep your stress level down. Focus on being organized and allow yourself proper “quiet” time. Practice regular relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and deep breathing exercises. Stress can aggravate RLS symptoms, especially near bedtime. If RLS causes sleep difficulties, try to do the relaxation techniques near bedtime.
Heat and Cold
Either heat or cold therapy can help alleviate symptoms of restless legs. If cold therapy helps, soak your feet in cool water. Do not attempt a “more is better” approach by soaking your feet in ice, as this could cause nerve damage. If heat therapy helps, apply a heating pad to your legs. Prolonged exposure to cold weather can aggravate symptoms.
Vitamins and Herbs
Iron deficiency, insufficient B vitamins and folate deficiency can cause or aggravate restless legs. Calcium and magnesium supplementation may be useful. For herbal combinations, consult a practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine. Consider trying the herbs kava and valerian.
Common homeopathic remedies vary according to the most bothersome symptoms. Remedies used to treat restless legs include Aconitum napellus, Arsenicum album, Acusticum, Ignatia, Rhus toxicodendron, Sulphur and Zincum metallicum. It is best to consult with a licensed homeopath for remedy selection. See Resources for an online homeopathic remedy finder.
Things to Avoid
Stimulants can worsen or aggravate restless legs symptoms. Eliminate or drastically reduce caffeine intake. Cut out alcohol, and quit smoking. A study at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine of more than 1,800 men and women showed that smokers were significantly more likely than nonsmokers to have restless legs syndrome.
Avoid eating late at night, especially large meals. The activity of digesting large amounts of food can trigger symptoms of restless legs.
Avoid sleep-inducing medications as well as cold and sinus medications. Sleep aids may help you get proper rest in the short term, but they can be habit forming and your body will build up a tolerance. According to the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, cold and sinus medications increase symptoms.