In this blog post I’d like to write about restless leg syndrome. It is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. It is considered a sleep disorder as it usually it more noticeable before falling asleep and during sleep, which can cause severe nightly sleep disruptions that can significantly reduce the sufferer’s quality of life.

People with restless leg syndrome have uncomfortable sensations in their legs with a strong urge to move their legs in order to relieve the sensations. It causes an uncomfortable, itchy, pins and needles, or creepy crawly type feeling in the legs. Symptoms can come and go and the severity can vary.

Restless leg syndrome is more common in middle-aged or older women, but can affect anyone, even young children. The cause of this syndrome is still not fully understood, hence there is no medical test in order to diagnose it, but researchers are beginning to suspect that genes may play a role as nearly half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition. Some chronic diseases and medical conditions including iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy may include symptoms of RLS. Also, certain medications may worsen symptoms. Alcohol use, cigarette smoking and sleep deprivation may trigger symptoms or make them worse, so keep that in mind if you suffer from this condition.

Suggestions for people with mild to moderate RLS

  • regular exercise program
  • regular sleep patterns
  • elimination or reduction of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may be helpful.

Non-drug treatments include:

  • leg massages
  • hot baths
  • heating pads on the legs
  • acupuncture.

In my clinical experience with RLS, I’ve found that acupuncture helps in two key ways. First of all, as acupuncture works through the nervous system, it sends a strong signal to the mid-brain, and, if properly applied can specifically target areas in the brain associated with the motor response of the legs.

Although researchers have singled out the nervous system as the cause of RLS, I have found that decreased blood flow to or from the legs can play a role as well.

Anytime there is a reduction in blood flow to an area of the body pain, tingling, numbness, cramping, and spasms can result. Acupuncture is wonderful at vaso-dilating blood vessels, thereby increasing blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to the legs. I hope this gives you a better understanding of restless leg syndrome.

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