Have you ever felt your legs shaking uncontrollably? If the answer is yes, you may have restless legs syndrome. Medically known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, it is a condition related to your nervous system that causes an urge to constantly moving your legs. This occurs both in males and females, although the prevalence in females is higher. Also, middle-aged or elderly people are more prone compared to young adults.

What causes restless legs syndrome?

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In most cases, it is difficult to detect the exact cause of restless legs syndrome. Some of the factors associated may be:

  • Family history: Some doctors believe genes have a role to play. Many people with restless legs syndrome have at least one family member with this condition.
  • Chronic medical conditions: Diseases and conditions such as end-stage renal disease, iron deficiency anemia, and spinal cord lesions are found to be linked to restless legs syndrome. Conditions involving abnormal dopamine function such as Parkinson's disease may cause uncontrolled movement of the legs.
  • Medicines: Drugs and medicines used to combat problems such as nausea, depression and high blood pressure can cause restless legs syndrome.

What symptoms do people with restless legs syndrome have?

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Symptoms of restless legs syndrome start usually in late afternoon or evening. These tend to become severe at night when the person is sleeping. This often disturbs the sleep of the person.

People with restless legs syndrome feel an uncomfortable sensation in their legs which causes an irresistible desire to move them. These sensations begin after a period of rest, such as lying down after a flight in an airplane, and usually diminish with movement. Sometimes sensations are also felt in the arms, chest and face. The sensations may be:

  • Throbbing
  • Itching
  • Aching
  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Tingling
  • Burning

These sensations may be mild in some people and intolerable in others. Rubbing or moving your legs usually provides some relief. This is the reason people with restless legs syndrome keep moving their legs.

How to handle restless legs syndrome

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There are several ways to treat symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Treating the underlying cause of the condition often provides relief. If you have restless legs syndrome, it is advisable to contact a specialist doctor to get yourself checked and treated.

Tips to get rid of restless legs syndrome naturally

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You can adopt certain lifestyle changes to alleviate the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Some of these changes are:

  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine. Consuming any of these may trigger the symptoms.
  • Do not take any medicine without consulting your doctor.
  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern. Try to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Avoid taking a nap during daytime as it affects night sleep.
  • Try to relax. Fatigue makes symptoms worse.
  • Soak in a warm bath to relax your muscles. Massaging your legs and calves is also a good option for pain relief.
  • Perform moderate exercise regularly. Do not exercise in late evenings as this may trigger your symptoms.
  • Apply cold packs. This may provide relief in some patients.
  • Indulge in relaxation techniques such as yoga and Tai chi. Do activities that distract your mind such as reading or listening to music.

Your doctor may ask you to consult a physiotherapist for relief of symptoms. Restless legs syndrome is a lifelong condition and there is no cure for it till date. Treating the underlying cause is the key to controlling symptoms.

About the Author

Nidhi Aggarwal

Nidhi is a professional medical writer and editor with more than 8 years of experience in the healthcare sector. A Physiotherapist by qualification, she enjoys creating content related to health and lifestyle.

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