Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that is characterized by, not surprisingly, an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. Sufferers describe crawling, creeping, tingling, burning, or painful sensations in the legs. Walking and moving around seems to give some relief from these sensations — hence the symptom of being restless and unable to sit still. Unfortunately, the restlessness and desire to keep moving tends to worsen for RLS sufferers when lying down. Feeling “restless” exactly when you are trying to go to sleep can lead to insomnia and a whole host of associated disorders.
RLS occurs in both men and women, with the incidence being slightly higher in women. Symptoms can begin at any age, but most people who are affected are middle-aged and older. RLS seems to get worse with age. Older patients report experiencing symptoms more often and for longer periods of time.
Along with loss of sleep, RLS sufferers may notice some or all of the following symptoms:
–Heightened emotional sensitivity
–Inability to deal with stress or excitement
–Loss of physical coordination
–Lack of appetite
–Muscle soreness and fatigue
–An increase in minor injuries and accidents
–An increased susceptibility to minor illness like colds or flu
Treatments for RLS vary — with an equally wide ranging degree of success. Many patients are given dopamine drugs that make them nauseated and dizzy. However, here’s a new treatment that’s just starting to get some press coverage and doesn’t seem to cause any side effects: it’s called “near-infrared light therapy.”
Researchers recruited a 69-year-old woman who had been afflicted with RLS for over 30 years (!) and tried many of the available drug remedies without success. For the study, she received 30-minute treatment sessions with near-infrared light, three times a week for four weeks. The restless legs syndrome rating scale was used to track symptom changes.
At the outset of the study, the patient scored “27” on the 0 to 40 point scale, which is considered to be “severe.” However, by week two, this same patient was almost symptom-free. The researchers concluded that near-infrared light may be a feasible method for treating patients suffering from RLS.
One final note: many RLS sufferers are low in iron. Iron helps carry oxygen to every part of your body. And iron helps you store oxygen in your muscles for later use. In short, your body needs iron to make the fuel that helps it to function. Boost your iron levels and you may find your symptoms improve. Also, make sure you keep your levels of magnesium and potassium up, too. These two minerals are important for muscle health. Check with your doctor for supplement dosages.