Being unable to sleep is already bad enough an experience, but a creep crawly sensation in your legs coupled with an overpowering desire to move them, thanks to restless leg syndrome or rls, can make things even worse. Wondering what helps restless leg syndrome naturally? We have got you covered with the top natural remedies for restless leg syndrome, rls.
According to The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them.” Also referred to as Willis-Ekbom Disease, RLS affects millions of people, with as much as twice the women affected than men.
The condition tend to strike when someone is relaxing, especially at night. Symptoms tend to be worse at night. The sensations in the legs vary from slightly irritating to very painful. The creeping sensation tends to be felt in the thighs, feet and calves.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the cause of this neurological condition is still unknown but the following underlying causes have been identified:
- Genetics: Preliminary evidence suggests a genetic aspect to RLS.
- Mineral imbalance: Low levels of iron in the brain has been linked to incidents of RLS. Studies have also found a link between RLS and vitamin D deficiency and low levels of vitamins C and E. Magnesium and potassium deficiency is also suspected to cause rls.
- Parkinson’s disease is as well thought to be an underlying cause of RLS. Parkinson’s disease interferes with brain’s ability to coordinate muscle activity and movement.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy may also be associated with incidents of restless legs. These tend to occur more frequently during the last three months of pregnancy.
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes and kidney failure have also been found to cause symptoms of RLS.
- Certain medications e.g. prochlorperazine (used to treat nausea), antihistamine containing allergy medications, and antidepressants that work by raising the level of serotonin can also make symptoms of restless leg syndrome worse.
Natural Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome at Night, When Pregnant, In Toddlers
RLS is notorious for causing sleep deprivation in the patients which in turn decrease their quality of life. Some people report declined productivity in their day jobs with others reporting severed personal relations as a result restless leg syndrome. If left untreated, the condition can also impact on people’s ability to concentrate or even impair their memory.
On a good note though there are many safe natural remedies for restless leg syndrome that, coupled with appropriate lifestyle changes, can help to get rid of the symptoms and enhance your quality of life.
Warm or Cold Compresses or Baths
Heat and cold are also effective at reducing the symptoms of rls. Before you retire to bed, dip a washcloth in warm water, wring out the excess water, and then dab your legs with it. Alternatively, soak yourself in a tub of hot water or take a warm bath for 10-15 minutes every night before you sleep. Heating pads can also help to get rid of the symptoms.
For cold treatment of restless leg syndrome, so to speak, wrap ice cubes in a towel and then rub it on your legs before sleeping. A cold shower may also be effective a natural treatment for the condition.
Both heat and cold are not only effective in preventing restless leg syndrome but also getting rid of the condition. A combination treatment involving both cold and warm sessions may be particularly helpful to restless legs. Simply soak your legs in a basin of warm water for 2 to 5 minutes and then rub a cold pack on them for a minute or so. Do this several times each night before your retire to bed.
Exercise is your first bet when it comes to preventative natural remedies for restless leg syndrome. If you tend to get rls every now and then, you may even want incorporate light to moderate stretching exercises into your daytime routine. Walking around and stretching your calves, hamstrings, thighs, and gluteal (buttock) muscles is especially recommended but you should not over-exercise or do the exercises just before bedtime, says the NHS Choices. Relaxation exercises such as yoga may also offer relief.
The WebMD recommends walking and stretching for 5 minutes every hour while at work and stretching every now and then if driving over long distance.
Here is one very easy yet effective exercise for rls alleviation:
- Raise the affected leg to the air
- Stretch it to its full length.
- Point your toes backwards to the furthest it can get.
- Repeat several time.
If this exercise causes your leg to cramps, stop it. This may be an indication of magnesium deficiency. Mineral supplementation is instead recommended for such a case.
You may also want to read: How to Get Rid of Leg Cramps
Massage the Legs
Speaking of easy but very effective natural remedies for restless leg syndrome, massage comes close to the top. Massaging the legs helps to relax the muscles and thus ease the symptoms of rls. You will especially want to massage your calves firmly while sitting near the edge of the bed. Massaging the legs is also a safe remedy for rls that occur during pregnancy.
Use a Muscle Rub
According to Alon Avidan, MD, MPH, an associate professor of neurology and director of the Sleep Disorders Clinic at UCLA, over the counter muscle rubs such as Deep Heat, Aspercreme, and Bengay can help to get rid of restless leg syndrome symptoms by improving blood flows to the legs while alleviating and pain or burning sensation.
While a muscle rub is not exactly a natural remedy it may be a good quick fix for rls.
Preliminary studies have shown the effectiveness of supplements in treating restless leg syndrome naturally. You will want to especially take vitamins C, D, and E supplements. Daily intake of 500mg of magnesium, 800-1000mg of potassium, and 800-1000mg of calcium is also recommended.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Iron deficiency is strongly associated with restless leg syndrome in children” and thus iron supplements may be particularly helpful to toddlers suffering from RLS even as you take them through iron-rich diets. For magnesium, magnesium oil and Pico-ionic are especially great. Mineral supplementation is especially recommended to pregnant mothers with symptoms of rls.
Watch Your Diet
Incorporating food that are rich in iron e.g. liver, wheat germ, dark green veggies, kidney beans and lean beef is also a great way to treat and prevent of rls and is particularly recommended.
Iron is an essential constituent of myoglobin, the protein that stores oxygen inside the muscles. Iron deficiency then means lower ability to hold oxygen which may then lead to muscle problems, including rls. According to the Mayo clinic iron deficiency is particularly associated with RLS in children.
It is also a great idea to incorporate foods rich in folic acid as part of prevention and natural treatment of rls. Also referred to as folate, folic belongs to the B-vitamins complex and is essential for optimal red blood cells. Enhanced body’s ability to build red blood cells means that it is able to more effectively oxygenate the muscles. This then helps to prevent and get rid of symptoms of rls.
Folic acid is available in most multivitamin supplements as well as in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans and orange juice.
You will also want to incorporate bone broth into your diet as it is a great source of magnesium, calcium and potassium.
Yes, sex is one of the best natural remedies for restless leg syndrome. Anecdotal evidence indicates that sex alleviate the symptoms of rls and although the medical fraternity is still yet to figure out or agree on why this is so, to Dr. Avidan says that the ease could be the result of the relaxation that follows sexual intercourse.
Chamomile tea is a superb herbal remedy that works by inducing sleep according to Dr. Avidan. Before going to bed each night, take a cup of chamomile tea and see if it helps.
Keep Your Mind Occupied
Stimulating your brain by engaging in mental activities can also help to prevent and get rid of restless leg syndrome. Dr. Avidan suggests playing Sudoku, reading a novel or something, or writing.
Stash a Soap Beneath Your Bed Sheet
Of all the natural remedies for restless leg syndrome, this is the most quirky but some people will swear to its effectiveness. Although there is no scientific evidence to back this claim, try placing a bar of soap beneath the bottom sheet and see if it helps to prevent restless leg syndrome.
Stay Away From Caffeinated Drinks and Products
According to the Mayo Clinic avoiding coffee, tea and other drinks and products that contain caffeine can help to offer relief for rls. Try staying away from such products for a couple weeks and see if it serves as a solution to the problem.
Watch Your Sleeping Habits
Even as you observe and implement the above lifestyle changes and natural remedies for restless leg syndrome, you will also want to practice proper sleep habits. You will in particular want to avoid daytime naps, sleep at the same time each and every night, and stay away from “sleep-chasing” e.g. caffeine before bedtime.
If none of these home remedies for rls doesn’t seem to prevent and get rid of the symptoms, you may want to speak with your doctor about medical treatments available e.g. dopamine agonists (the likes pramipexole and ropinirole), painkillers, and levodopa.
Mayo Clinic: Restless legs syndrome
Mayo Clinic: Restless legs and iron deficiency in children
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet
NHS Choices: Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment
WebMD: Restless leg Syndrome