Restless Legs Syndrome
Information on restless legs syndrome, also known as RLS. Causes, symptoms, natural treatments and home remedies from alternative medicine. Get help and relief now.
The annoying restless legs disorder is the fourth leading cause of insomnia, because the most significant restless legs syndrome symptom is the irresistible urge to move the legs, especially at night. Instead of sleeping, people get up and walk, depriving themselves of needed rest. It's more common in women and in those over 60.
Although a couple of studies have identified a gene for some cases of RLS, there are also causes for restless legs syndrome that have nothing to do with genetics. The big advantage the genetic studies gave is that doctors are no longer telling patients it's all in their head.
The professional researcher/reporter who writes this site has no medical training. Always check with your doctor before trying anything you read here. Everyone is different, and what might be good for some people might be bad for you, considering your medical history and medications.
Restless Legs Syndrome Treatments
From Alternative Medicine
Magnesium deficiency is a common cause of RLS, so magnesium would be a restless legs syndrome natural home remedy (after you check with your doctor, as always). A lack of enough magnesium in the diet is widespread, and blood tests are inaccurate. A number of my medical sources recommend taking a magnesium supplement "to bowel tolerance," because magnesium can be a laxative. Personally, I can only take 400 to 600 milligrams a day (for other reasons than RLS) before I get diarrhea, but the source listed below says she gives "all of my RLS patients magnesium...from 100 to 1000 milligrams per day." She says just taking magnesium often solves the problem.
Fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome: RLS is frequently coupled with migraine headaches or fibromyalgia, both of which may respond to magnesium therapy. Magnesium is a wonder supplement. See more information on magnesium on our
Health Benefits of Magnesium page.
Here's an eye opener: In an RLS study, Mayo Clinic researchers found that ALL of those with RLS had donated blood at least three times annually for the preceding three years, and they all had an iron deficiency.
Blood levels (also known as blood ferritin levels) of iron drop 50 to 60 percent at night, and RLS patients' brains often lack sufficient iron. Studies show that the lower the ferritin level, the worse the RLS symptoms, so ask your doctor for an ordinary ferritin blood test. If your levels are lower than 50 mcg/L, you may want to take an iron supplement. A British study found that 200 milligrams of ferrous sulfate (iron) taken three times a day for two months relieved RLS symptoms, when patients' blood ferritin levels were low. My source recommends iron picolinate, which is more easily absorbed.
Many postmenopausal women avoid iron supplements, because they know that excess iron produces dangerous free radicals. Since they have stopped menstruating (another way of "donating" blood) iron levels can build to excess. If this applies to you, your doctor can help you by monitoring your iron levels with blood tests.
In genetic cases of RLS, folic acid supplementation may be indicated, since folate deficiencies are often seen in patients with RLS. Your blood levels of folic acid should be 1-12 ng/mL. In one study, RLS patients who took folic acid saw their problem disappear, and their IQ improved, too. Some blood tests don't show a deficiency, so my source recommends one to ten milligrams of folic acid. Check with your doctor.
Restless Legs Syndrome and Pregnancy
Pregnancy can create deficiencies in iron, folate and magnesium. Check with your doctor about blood monitoring and supplementation.
If you are taking antidepressants—SSRIs like Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or tricyclic antidepressants like Elavil or Tofranil, these could worsen or even create your RLS problem. Check with your doctor and pharmacist, and ask your doctor for recommendations that won't contribute to RLS.
Other Restless Legs Syndrome Natural Treatments
Cut down on or eliminate caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes. As for RLS exercise, do stretching exercises specifically for your legs to loosen tight muscles. You may also get temporary relief with methods that increase circulation, such as manual or vibrator massage.
My source recommends a 20 herb supplement called Padma Basic as a restless legs syndrome herbal remedy, in cases when RLS is related to poor circulation and inflammation. Take it for three months, she says, two tablets with each meal.
A reader of Health and Healing newsletter (October 2011) by Julian Whitaker, M.D., writes that he has two personal remedies: 1) "I bend down to touch my toes...Sometimes that's all it takes. 2) If it doesn't work, then I take two potassium pills (3 percent of RDA each). After 20-30 minutes my legs quiet down." Be sure to check with your own doctor before trying any of this. Dr. Whitaker comments that another possibility is the drug Dilantin. Re Dilantin, Dr. Whitaker recommends the book A Remarkable Medicine Has Been Overlooked, by Jack Dreyfus, who talks about "phenytoin," which is apparently the basic name for the brand name drug Dilantin (I'm not sure; I'm a writer. Check with your doctor!)
Here's a link to the book:
Are any of the suggestions a natural cure for restless legs syndrome? They may be worth a try, after you check with your doctor.
Health and Healing newsletter, by Julian Whitaker, M.D., October 2011. For subscription info, see drwhitaker.com.
Women's Health Letter, by Dr. Nan Fuchs, May 2008. For subscription info, e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Copyright 2008 Joanna Fuchs Restless Legs Syndrome