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Question:

Restless leg syndrome: what else can I do?

Dear Ask The Doctor:
What can I do at home to help with my jerking, non-stop moving, acheing legs and sometimes arms. I have tried hot baths, shock treatments, heating pads, muscle rub, walking, rubbing, over the counter meds for leg cramps. I'm out of ideas even tried potassium and iron supplements. Help please I need more than 3 hours of sleep on the nights I have this problem with my legs and arms. Not counting they are occuring more and more often too, I'm up to three times a week now.


Answer:

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that affects movements of the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder. RLS affects about 8-10% of the US population. Men and women are affected equally. It may begin at any age, even in infants and young children. Most people who are affected severely are middle-aged or older. The severity of RLS symptoms ranges from mild to intolerable. Symptoms get gradually worse over time in about two thirds of people with the condition and may be severe enough to be disabling. The symptoms are generally worse in the evening and night and less severe in the morning. While the symptoms are usually quite mild in young adults, by age 50 the symptoms cause severe nightly sleep disruption that leads to decreased alertness in the daytime.In many cases, personal habits can make a sleeping disorder worse. Sometimes they are the main cause of the problem. Here are some things you can do that may relieve your symptoms: Avoid or limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for several hours before bedtime, take medications (prescription and nonprescription) only as directed, get some exercise every day, avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime, maintain a regular sleep schedule, avoid daytime naps, use your bed only for sleeping or sex, try not to use bedtime as worry time. You may benefit from physical therapy, such as stretching, hot or cold baths, whirlpool baths, hot or cold packs, limb massage, or vibratory or electrical stimulation of the feet and toes before bedtime. Exercise and relaxation techniques also may be helpful. Daily drug treatment is recommended only for people who have restless legs syndrome (RLS) symptoms at least three nights a week, or as determined by your doctor. Drugs used to treat primary RLS do not cure the condition, but only relieve symptoms. People whose RLS symptoms occur sporadically may be prescribed medication to take when they have symptoms.



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