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Restless leg syndrome: causes, diagnosis and solutions

restless leg
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Restless leg syndrome: causes, diagnosis and solutions
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Restlessness in the legs is a relatively common phenomenon, particularly among women. 8.5% of the world’s population is affected by restless leg syndrome, which generally manifests as tingling, pins and needles, twitches or muscle contractions in the legs during sleep or times of rest. Here are a few explanations for the phenomenon, which gets worse with age. 

What is this “restlessness” and what are the symptoms?

These symptoms are referred to as “restless leg syndrome“, and appear during moments of inactivity, in a seated or lying position. This sensation of restlessness is accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs, to the extent that staying immobile becomes intolerable. It generally happens in the evening or at night, and becomes more intense with age. Women are affected twice as much as men.

Family history is one of the main risk factors. However, certain people have increased risk, including pregnant women, people with diabetes, Parkinson’s or renal failure.

This unpleasant sensation can pass, by regularly changing position. By walking around, it is no longer possible to feel the restlessness. The sensation can occur at other times of day, while the body is at rest – for example, at the cinema.

However, at night, the syndrome can become particularly annoying. It is classed as a sleep disorder, as it can regularly awaken people who are affected. Their nights are not restful, and their sleep tends take the form of short naps rather than a long, deep sleep, which leads to drowsiness throughout the day.

The syndrome is not severe, but it can be debilitating for the people who suffer from it, who can even come to fear the time to go to bed, which does nothing for promoting good sleep.

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What solutions are there?

Firstly, consult our previous article on the natural remedies for restless leg syndrome.

The first solution, which doesn’t require any specialised treatment, is simply walking around. Walking for a few minutes can ease the tingling sensation. It is also possible to massage the legs in order to get rid of this unpleasant sensation.

For people who suffer greatly from this syndrome, there are certain treatments which can be prescribed by a doctor, but only if the person can no longer live with the condition: anti-convulsants, sedatives, anti-anxiety medications, or even painkillers. However, there is no targeted treatment for restless leg syndrome, although some medications can ease the intensity of the symptoms.

These unpleasant sensations can also be reduced by using cold and heat. In fact, after a hot bath, you may notice the symptoms of restlessness decreasing. They can also be eased by applying hot or cold compresses to the legs.

Relaxation techniques are also recommended for getting rid of the phenomenon of restless legs. Yoga, or simply reading or doing crosswords all work – it is up to you to choose the technique that suits you best.

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How can it be prevented?

If you notice the first symptoms of restless leg syndrome, don’t waste any time, and consult a doctor for a clear and precise diagnosis. You can then better manage the syndrome, and the symptoms will be less intense if you treat them rapidly. If it turns out that you are in fact suffering from restless leg syndrome, here are a few recommendations to reduce the symptoms in as much as possible:

  • Reduce your consumption of caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and it is best to cut it out if you want the sensations of restlessness, twitching and tingling to be less intense.
  • Avoid certain medications which can exacerbate the phenomenon, such as neuroleptics, antidepressants, beta-blockers or lithium.
  • Reduce your consumption of cigarettes and alcohol.

Furthermore, stress can exacerbate restless leg syndrome. It is therefore imperative to learn how to relax.

The quality of your sleep also plays an important role. The better your sleep is, the less susceptible you will be to tingling, restless legs. You should try to stick to a good sleep routine, and ensure that your sleeping environment facilitates restful sleep (good quality bedding, a cool, well-aired room, etc.).

Related articles:

Restless leg syndrome: symptoms and natural treatments

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