Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a collection of sensations such as prickling, tingling, or aching which are felt in the legs when lying down or sitting down, and it can interfere with trying to relax or go to sleep. Affecting approximately 15% of all Americans, RLS does not generally cause any significant health issues, but in a prolonged state it can lead to fatigue, and many other issues resulting from the loss of quality rest or sleep.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), Restless Leg Syndrome is sometimes caused by taking certain medications, and the condition will clear up after switching to some other medication. In the same way, when RLS is a symptom of some other medical issue, the RLS will disappear when the main problem is cured. However, when neither of these two potential causes is the culprit, it is unclear just how RLS develops in some people. Home caregivers in Los Altos have encountered RLS in many of their charges over the years, and offer the following tips for coping with the discomfort it brings.
Add more stretching and exercise to your routine
Increasing circulation can’t banish the symptoms of RLS altogether, but in virtually all cases, it will at least reduce the discomfort associated with the condition. By making time in your daily schedule to add in even little snippets of exercise and stretching, you can go a long way toward reducing that tingling or aching later in the day.
Take a lunchtime walk, do some stretching throughout the day, and get a friend or family member to provide a leg massage during the evening to stimulate circulation and ward off the RLS nasties. With summer vacations on many people’s agendas, it’s important to break up long drives by making frequent stops to limber up stiff legs, and move around a bit before resuming the journey.
Consider making lifestyle changes
Regularly consuming alcoholic beverages can trigger the symptoms of RLS, and by reducing your intake or avoiding alcohol, you’ll probably notice a corresponding reduction in the number of RLS attacks, as well as the severity of them. Programs which discipline the mind and body such as yoga, can also have a significant impact on RLS symptoms, with many of the major muscle groups in the body being stretched and flexed.
You may not be a person who likes to take baths, but a hot bath can relax body muscles quite effectively, especially in the evening when RLS symptoms typically appear. Using a heating pad can accomplish the same thing, if you don’t want to go to the trouble of preparing a bath.
It’s a good idea to avoid drinking coffee or any other caffeinated beverages within a few hours of bedtime, because this can intensify the effects of RLS and spawn additional restlessness. To prepare yourself for a good night’s sleep, avoid taking naps during the daytime, so that your body’s natural end-of-day fatigue sets you up for a good sleep.
Take vitamins or supplements
It is thought by some scientists and medical personnel that the symptoms of RLS can be caused by a deficiency in the body of certain vitamins and minerals, for instance Vitamin B, iron, folic acid, and magnesium. By ensuring that your body receives the minimum adult daily requirement of these minerals and vitamins, you may notice a reduction of your symptoms. If you’re unsure about whether any of these might react with medications you already take, it’s a good idea to consult with your family physician before adding them to your daily intake.
If your RLS symptoms are fairly severe and cause you pain as well as restlessness, there are some over-the-counter medications you can take which will help alleviate the problem. Ordinary pain relief medications such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, and ketoprofen are all good candidates which can help with symptom relief. While none of these should be used as a long-term solution to RLS distress, they are safe for occasional use, when discomfort is at a high level.
Avoidance of RLS triggers
While in the most severe cases of RLS, it may be necessary to seek prescription medications to alleviate symptoms, the worst effects of RLS can often be avoided simply by eliminating the most common triggers of the syndrome. To do this, remember some of the most likely culprits mentioned above:
- don’t drink alcoholic beverages or caffeinated beverages close to bedtime
- avoid daytime naps which will make you less sleepy at bedtime
- stick to a regular sleep schedule, which promotes a readiness for a good night’s sleep
- eliminate prolonged periods of inactivity, and incorporate more stretching and exercise throughout the day
- ensure that your body is receiving proper amounts of vitamins and minerals.
When even these tips fail to manage your RLS symptoms, don’t hesitate to consult your doctor about the condition. It’s much better to take steps which will help to manage and control the syndrome, rather than allow it to extend into a prolonged situation which saps you of energy and vitality.