How to Get Restless Legs Relief
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an aching, creeping, or prickling sensation in the legs or other extremities when one is sitting still or laying down. While the condition itself – which affects up to 15% of adult Americans – doesn’t cause serious health problems, it does get in the way of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can cause all manner of issues including fatigue and impaired mental function. Here are some tips on how to get restless legs relief.
Adopt Proper Sleep Hygiene
Having good sleeping habits and better sleep hygiene is something everyone can benefit from, but it’s of particular importance for anyone who struggles to sleep at night. Getting more sleep might not necessarily eliminate RLS, but it can offset the sleep deprivation and sleep-related issues of having RLS. Here are some tips on proper sleep hygiene;
- Go to bed and wake up at a consistent time
- Keep sleeping areas cool and dark
- Have as few distractions as possible in a bedroom
- Avoid using electronics up to three hours before going to bed. The blue light from electronic screens disrupts the circadian rhythm, which controls the natural sleep-wake cycle.
Adopting healthy sleeping habits improves quality of sleep and helps you manage the symptoms of RLS and get some relief from them.
There are several potential causes for RLS, with iron deficiency believed to be one of the biggest risk factors. Iron supplements have been shown to help provide restless legs relief. It’s easy to find out if you have an iron deficiency through a blood test, so talk to your doctor if you think you might have one.
If it turns out you do then there are lots of iron supplements you can take. In an extreme case you may need an IV drip but it isn’t likely. Supplementing vitamins C, D, and E has also been shown to offer relief. Talk to your doctor about supplements and if they might help your condition.
Get More Exercise
Exercise is a great way to get restless legs relief. Moderate exercise has been shown to help to alleviate mild symptoms of RLS. Aerobic exercises and resistance training that focuses on the lower body are most effective.
Not only does exercise help reduce RLS symptoms, but it also improves sleep quality. It’s only natural that these effects would combine and create an effective way to relieve RLS. Just remember to practice everything in moderation. Working out too hard could make the problem worse rather than better.
Practice Stretching and Yoga
While all exercise is beneficial, stretching and yoga exercises have shown themselves to be particularly beneficial for RLS relief.
One study from 2013 showed that women got RLS relief after practicing yoga for eight weeks. It also improved their mood and reduced stress levels for a compound effect that led to better sleep overall. Other studies have shown the benefits of yoga on sleep and RLS.
Stretching is also beneficial for RLS symptoms. It would take more research to understand the “why” but we do know that it works. So sign up for a yoga class or stretch out your legs at home and see if it relieves your RLS symptoms. Once again, practice moderation. Intense yoga, such as hot yoga or DDPY programs, are not recommended. They can do more harm than good when it comes to RLS.
Get a Massage
Having a leg massage is another way to get RLS relief. Leg massage comes recommended by several health organizations, including the National Sleep Foundation. They recommend using massage as a simple and effective at-home treatment to manage RLS symptoms.
Not only do massages relax muscles and improve circulation, but they also increase dopamine release and make you feel good. These effects come together to leave you feeling more relaxed, better able to sleep, and come with reduced RLS symptoms.
Get a Foot Wrap
Foot wraps – called Restiffic – have been shown to reduce RLS symptoms. They put pressure on points in your feet. The pressure sends a message to the brain, which relays the message to the muscles affected by RLS and tells them to relax.
A study of 30 people who used the foot wraps for eight weeks showed they presented major improvements in their RLS symptoms and overall quality of sleep.
The downside is that Restiffic is only available via prescription and it can come with a pretty hefty price tag. See if your doctor would prescribe it for you and if your insurance would cover it before going ahead with it.
Pneumatic Compression Devices
If you’ve spent the night at a hospital before then you’ve likely had pneumatic compression treatment. This is a kind of treatment where a “sleeve” is placed on your legs. It gently inflates and deflates to apply pressure to limbs and help them relax and stay active when you can’t move them.
They are used in hospitals to prevent blood clots and improve circulation in patients with limited mobility. This improved circulation could be why they also help to relieve RLS symptoms for sufferers.
There is evidence to suggest that one of the causes of RLS is reduced oxygen levels in limbs. The body attempts to sort the problem by stimulating muscle contractions to improve circulation, causing the urge to move limbs. That’s why you feel better after moving a little and start feeling bad again when you stop.
No matter why pneumatic compression devices work, there is evidence to show that they do. The evidence isn’t entirely conclusive, but one study of 35 people in 2009 showed that using a pneumatic compression device for an hour each day improved RLS symptoms.
This is a great non-drug method to deal with RLS symptoms. A good pneumatic compression device can be purchased over the counter without a prescription if necessary. Results can vary so it’s hard to say for sure if it will definitely work for you.
Relaxis Vibration Pads
The Relaxis vibration pad is similar to a pneumatic compression device. It can help you sleep better at night to reduce the fatiguing effects of restless legs. All you have to do is place the pad on your leg and set it to the right setting. It’ll turn itself on and off as needed.
The way that Relaxis works is that it offers a counter to the stimulation caused by RLS. It balances out the stimulation caused by RLS so that you don’t feel them. Relaxis is actually the only device authorized for RLS by the FDA. This does mean that it can only be purchased on a prescription though.
Talk to your doctor about the Relaxis vibration pad to see if it is worth it for you. It might not treat the symptoms themselves, but it does provide some RLS relief for sufferers. Also check to see if the device is covered by your insurance, which will help to deal with the high cost.
Take Immediate Action
Sometimes symptoms will still flare up no matter how many preventative measures you take. There are some things you can do to get immediate relief if that happens. The first thing to do is to just give in and move around a little. Not moving will only make things worse in the long run. Get up, walk around your bed, and lie back down.
Another thing to try is distracting yourself. Get your attention away from what’s happening in your muscles with an activity or a game. Solve a puzzle or read a book. Find a proactive way to stimulate your brain and take your mind off of things.
It can help to do some stretching when symptoms flare up. Stretch your calves, rotate your ankles, or do some yoga. Light exercise not only keeps symptoms at bay but also provides relief from RLS when you need it the most. The same applies to pressure. Wear compression socks or have a leg massage and see if that helps.
RLS causes all manner of problems, from discomfort to sleeping issues and trouble functioning normally. It’s important to know how to manage the symptoms and what treatments – if any – are available. Start out by trying some of these options and talk to your doctor if you need any extra help.
A doctor can offer you more information about restless legs syndrome and help you put together an effective treatment plan built around you. It could take a little trial and error to find the perfect approach for you but you can – and will – find relief.