Restless Leg Syndrome
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant or painful throbbing, pulling, or creeping sensations in the legs. RLS patients often feel irresistibly compelled to constantly move their legs, and these relentless symptoms can cause insomnia, emotional distress, and a significantly diminished quality of life.
RLS can be classified as primary or secondary; the exact cause of primary RLS is not known, although altered dopamine signaling is thought to play a part, while secondary RLS is connected to an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, chronic venous disorders, and iron deficiency.
Several natural interventions such as diosmin and folate may help relieve the symptoms or underlying causes of RLS.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Restless Leg Syndrome?
- Family history
- Kidney disease
- Diabetes/impaired glucose tolerance
- Chronic venous disorders
- Iron deficiency (or regularly donating blood)
- Sedentary lifestyle
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome?
Note: Generally, RLS is not treated pharmacologically unless it is chronic, persistent, and unresponsive to nonpharmacologic treatments such as correcting iron deficiency and lifestyle changes. Also, treating primary RLS should not be considered until possible secondary causes are addressed.
- Dopamine agonists such as ropinirole, pramipexole, and rotigotine (Neupro)
- Levodopa, a dopamine precursor (usually for intermittent treatment)
- Low-dose opioids (typically a last resort)
What Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for Restless Leg Syndrome?
- Avoid stimulants such as nicotine and excessive caffeine
- Exercise regularly, but not right before bed
- Massage and acupuncture, in conjunction with medications or alone, may offer relief to some people with RLS
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Restless Leg Syndrome?
- Iron. Iron deficiency or altered brain iron metabolism have been linked to RLS; supplementation is often recommended for RLS patients who have been tested and shown to be deficient. Iron supplementation has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in iron-deficient RLS patients.
- Folate. Low levels of folate may play a role in RLS, especially in pregnant women. Pregnant women with lower folate levels were more likely to develop RLS than women who took vitamins during pregnancy.
- Magnesium. Low magnesium levels can cause excitability of neurons; magnesium supplements are often used to prevent abnormal activity in the nervous system. A case study indicated magnesium may improve symptoms and sleep problems associated with RLS.
- Diosmin. Diosmin is a natural flavone derivative often used for supporting venous function. Since venous disorders have been linked with RLS, diosmin is a promising possible treatment.
- Green coffee extract. Diabetes and pre-diabetes are known risk factors for RLS. Green coffee extract may help maintain healthy glucose levels.
- Valerian root. Valerian, an herbal sedative, is often used as a sleep aid. In a clinical trial, supplementation with valerian resulted in improvements in RLS symptoms and less daytime sleepiness.
- Other natural interventions that may help relieve RLS symptoms include D-ribose and vitamins C and E.