Here are the causes and symptoms of this syndrome, and ways to keep your feet from dancing uncontrollably throughout the night.
The Different Factors Associated with Restless Leg Syndrome
People of all ages, including children, can develop RLS (also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease). However, the risk of RLS can increase significantly with age. The syndrome has also been found to be more common in women than in men.
A large number of people with RLS (92%) have a first-degree relative diagnosed with the syndrome. Interestingly, they are likely to develop symptoms before age 45 compared to people without genetic linkage.
In addition, the onset of RLS also relates to other medical conditions, such as:
- Iron deficiency
- Spinal cord conditions
- Kidney disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Separately, the prevalence of RLS during pregnancy is two to three times higher than in normal people. It can be attributed to hormonal changes and reduced levels of iron and folate in the body. People undergoing dialysis or using antidepressants, allergy drugs or anti-nausea medications can also be susceptible to the syndrome. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can also make symptoms worse.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) defines RLS as the formation and accumulation of pathogenic factors. “
2 Notable Signs of Restless Leg Syndrome
Apart from the temptation to shake your legs, RLS can be accompanied by physical discomfort and poor work performance.
An uncomfortable feeling in the arms or legs can present as a creeping, itching, pulling, crawling, tugging, throbbing, burning or gnawing sensation. It usually happens around bedtime but may also transpire during periods of limb inactivity.
A person with RLS requires more time than the average person to fall asleep. It stems from a desire to alleviate the discomfort by moving or stretching their limbs. Hence, a decline in sleep quality may result in daytime sleepiness and influence rational thinking. For instance, a person will experience moodiness and irritability, and struggle to concentrate at work.
Taking Steps to Have Better Control Over Restless Leg Syndrome
A clinical physician will diagnose the syndrome after observing your symptoms. They may also choose to perform complete physical and neurological examinations after reviewing your medical history. In doing so, they’ll be able to rule out other health disorders. An overnight sleep study may also be ordered if you exhibit signs of obstructive sleep apnoea.
Making lifestyle modifications
Changes to a person’s daily routine may be proposed if they only have mild RLS symptoms. These include:
- Practicing good sleep hygiene
- Engaging in regular, aerobic exercises
- Limiting or avoiding caffeinated beverages
- Managing stress through healthy, relaxing habits
- Applying a heating pad or cold compress to the leg
Use medications and herbal formulas
Frequent and severe RLS, on the other hand, can be treated with prescription medications. Dopamine agonists are particularly effective for easing sensory symptoms in the legs, and suppressing involuntary movement and leg jerks during sleep.
Anti-seizure medications can slow pain signals from leg nerves, and are especially beneficial for RLS due to neuropathy. Neuropathy refers to damage or dysfunction to one or more nerves.
Likewise, herbal formulas can be consumed to address the imbalances that induce RLS. Specifically, each recommended formula has the ability to dissipate and dispel pathogen combinations, and
- yi yi ren tang (薏苡仁汤)
- xuan bi tang (宣痹汤)
- shen tong zhu yu tang (身痛逐瘀汤)
- dang gui nian tong tang (当归拈痛汤)
- jing fang si wu tang (荆防四物汤)
- huang qi gui zhi wu wu tang (黄芪桂枝五物汤)
“Please always bear in mind that the herbal formulas provided are only meant for varying syndromes or subsets of RLS. Each of them is characterised by different pathological combinations. One is strongly advised
Stimulate acupressure points
Applying a feasible amount of pressure on certain acupressure points
feng chi (GB20, 風池)
- tai xi (KI3, 太谿)
- yin gu (KI10, 陰谷)
- yin ling quan (SP9, 陰陵泉)
- bi guan (ST31, 髀關)
- zu san li (ST36, 足三里)
“Take note that acupressure only provides mild symptomatic relief for RLS. It is thus strongly recommended to seek professional help with a licensed TCM practitioner, in conjunction with the medical doctor, especially if the symptoms persist and are so severe that they affect the ability to function daily,” adds physician Yew.
Ultimately, achieving control over restless leg syndrome starts with understanding its triggers. Speaking to a clinical physician and TCM practitioner will help you treat the disorder holistically.