If you experience pain or discomfort in your legs that makes you feel like moving around, especially at night, you may have a condition called restless leg syndrome. For an estimated six million people in the U.S., this is a familiar bedtime routine. After a long, busy day of work, fun, and family, they finally fall into bed at night and turn out the light. Hoping to fall to sleep, instead, quick movements of the legs (along with other symptoms) keep them up for hours. When they do manage to fall asleep in short intervals, restless legs wake them up regularly. Every morning they rise out of bed, barely having slept. Restless legs syndrome is a chronic, disruptive problem. What is restless syndrome and what are some restless leg syndrome treatments?

What is restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that results in uncontrollable twitching, jerking, pulling, and movement of the legs. This urge is involuntary and results in an inability to lie still or relax.

Restless leg syndrome affects as many as 10% of the population in the U.S. Recent research from Boston University Medical Center has found that beyond the symptoms that rob a person of sleep and cause discomfort, restless leg syndrome can be an initial indicator of an underlying disease. We’ll discuss the related conditions of restless leg syndrome, shortly.

There are two types of restless leg syndrome:

  1. Starting before the age of 45, RLS tends to get progressively worse over time and is generally hereditary. Mild cases may have long periods with no symptoms. This is categorized as a chronic condition.
  2. Starting after age 45, RLS does not appear to have a genetic component and seems to have a direct cause (medication, other condition, etc). Onset is abrupt, and symptoms generally stay at the same level, neither getting worse nor better over time. Removing the direct cause often resolves the symptoms.

Caucasian women experience restless leg syndrome at much higher rates than their African-American counterparts, indicating that race is a good predictor of this condition. Pregnancy and Parkinson’s disease are also potential causes, and as we’ll see, restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia are closely related. Adults with fibromyalgia are ten times more likely to experience restless leg syndrome.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome? | PainDoctor.com

What is PLMS?

Restless leg syndrome is often confused with periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). The two conditions are very different, although it is possible for a person to suffer from both at the same time.

PLMS is a sleep disorder in which a person involuntarily and often unknowingly move their limbs. For example, a twitching or kicking of the legs, while asleep. The legs may twitch or jerk involuntarily as often as every 15 to 40 seconds throughout the night.

RLS, on the other hand, is a neurological disorder that can be a problem while a person is awake or sleeping. The condition is characterized by sensations that are very uncomfortable, bordering on pain. As many as 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also report having periodic limb movement of sleep. A person can have PLMS without having restless legs syndrome, but many with restless legs syndrome see their symptoms worsen over time to include PLMS.

What are some restless leg syndrome symptoms?

When a person with restless leg syndrome lays down to sleep, their legs wake up. The most common restless leg syndrome symptoms include the following sensations in the legs:

  • Itching
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Creeping
  • Aching
  • Paresthesia (tingling or “pins and needles” sensations)
  • Cramps
  • Symptoms that occur in the trunk of the body or the arms

These sensations are strong enough to interfere with sleep. Patients report that the only way to achieve relief from symptoms is to move. Restless leg syndrome symptoms may be slow to start and get worse over time. Rarely, symptoms may also occur in the torso, arms, and head.

Because they are unable to get a full night’s rest, people suffering from RLS often hav