Restless leg syndrome, also known as RLS, is a neurological disorder manifested by pulling, creeping, throbbing, and similar sensations in the legs. As explained by Dr. Whitaker, it is caused by disruptions in the nervous system, which cause the legs to move in an uncontrollable manner. The symptoms occur at night when the person sleeps, making it difficult for the body to relax. While only an estimate, 7-10% of the American population suffers from RLS. It affects both men and women, but women are at higher risk of developing it. Middle-aged individuals are the most susceptible to this issue, and their symptoms tend to worsen with time.
Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
As discussed earlier, those with RLS have unpleasant sensation in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move their legs to alleviate the sensations. The condition creates itchy or creepy crawly feeling in the legs, which worsens at rest. The severity of the symptoms ranges from mild to unbearable. They may come and go away and the severity can vary. As mentioned above, the symptoms typically worsen at night and when the person is at rest.
Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
Doctors are not sure about the real cause of RLS, but they suspect that genes play a significant role. In fact, about half of people with restless leg syndrome have a family member with the condition. Other factors that are linked to the development of worsening of RLS include:
- Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, kidney failure, iron deficiency, peripheral neuropathy, and Parkinson`s disease typically include symptoms of RLS. Hence, treating them helps relieve RLS symptoms.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants, cold and allergy medications containing sedating antihistamines, and antipsychotic drugs, may aggravate the symptoms.
- Pregnancy: Many women experience restless leg syndrome during pregnancy, particularly in the last trimester.
According to Julian Whitaker, his patients swear by one very simple remedy, which involves placing a bar of soap in the bed at night. As explained by Derek H. Page from The People’s Pharmacy, the scent molecules in the soap evaporate and deposit on the leg, which allows them to be absorbed in the muscles and impact the blood supply.
This remedy has soon become all the rage and people have turned into a household staple. The employees in People`s Pharmacy engineered a soap bar which is completely flat, which makes it less intrusive in bed but just as effective. It is diffused with lavender scent, which has been shown to promote calmness and sleep. Some people place it in a free-roaming sock in the sheets while others choose to hide it under the fitted sheet.
Other remedies that have been proven to help alleviate restless leg syndrome include stocking up on supplemental magnesium, iron, and calcium, exercising on a daily basis (low-intensity workout), getting the body used to recurring sleep schedule, and stress reduction.
Note: It is worth noting that diagnosing restless leg syndrome in children is particularly difficult, as it may be hard for children to describe what they are feeling, how do the symptoms look like, and how long they last. Pediatric RLS may be misdiagnosed as attention deficit disorder.