First the bad news – there is no cure for restless legs syndrome (RLS), the neurological disorder that causes abnormal and uncomfortable sensations in the legs. Known as a spectrum disease, some
people experience minor irritation, while others endure a significant impact on their lives, including sleep loss. However, some drugs make RLS more bearable, while simple lifestyle changes can also help ease painful symptoms. These include:
For very mild symptoms, over-the-counter medication can relieve painful twitching if it is taken as soon as the sensation starts.
A NAP HAND
Have a cool, quiet and comfortable environment to sleep in. Try to maintain a consistent pattern when going to bed and getting up. A routine can make it easier to sleep.
Try not to sleep during the day, as this can make it harder to sleep at night.
HAVING A SOAK
A good warm bath can relax leg muscles, so the sensations aren’t so painful.
HOT AND COLD
An ice pack or heat pad can help improve prickling and burning symptoms.
Moderate exercise can relieve symptoms, but be careful not to overdo it or workout too late in the day as that can be counterproductive.
AT A STRETCH
Try beginning and ending your day with exercises that stretch your legs, as well as massaging them when you can to relax your muscles.
GRIND IT OUT
Cutting out coffee is a good idea – also steer clear of chocolate and soft drinks, which contain caffeine. See if you notice any difference after a few weeks.
Ditching alcohol and cigarettes is always a good idea – but experiment to see if it helps RLS.
Nutritional deficiencies can play a part in RLS, so seek medical advice. If you know you are lacking something like iron or magnesium, you can change diet or take supplements.
YOU KNOW YOU’VE GOT RLS BECAUSE:
• You have painful sensations in your legs. They often affect calves and ache, burn or prickle.
• The symptoms are worse at night.
• The sensations are relieved when you get up and move around.
YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE IT IF:
• You are over 65.
• There’s a family history of RLS.
• You have nerve damage in your legs.
• You take medications that may aggravate or trigger RLS, including anti-nausea products and over-the-counter drugs that contain antihistamines or decongestants.