When Moving Legs Offers No Relief

Ever been in a movie or on a flight and your legs become itchy, uncomfortable or even painful?

For most of us, getting up and moving your legs usually gets rid of these sensations.

But for some people, these sensations can begin to affect both their waking lives and the quality of their sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) occurs when people develop an urge to move their legs, whether it’s a pain, an itch or some sort of discomfort – everyone describes it differently. Movement of the legs makes it feel better, at least for a time.

Dr Scott Phung from Wexford Sleep says some people experience RLS only at night, but for others it can get worse throughout the day.

“Some people can’t even lie in bed for very long because they get this really bad restless leg and they have to get up and walkaround,” Dr Phung says.

Medical professionals are still uncertain as to the cause of RLS for many patients, but sometimes they can get to the root of the problem.

Common secondary causes include iron deficiency, excessive caffeine, smoking and alcohol. It could also indicate a sign of diabetes, thyroid or kidney diseases.

“Our first step is to rule out these  conditions,” Dr Phung says.

“Magnesium supplements taken before bedtime can be simple to trial.”

“Hot packs and cold packs can also be effective, as can a shower or exercise, or simple analgesia, such as Panadol.”

What about if these treatments don’t work?

“There are more powerful medications we can use in people with severe cases of RLS,” Dr Phung says.

“But some of these have debilitating side effects and patients can develop a tolerance to them so they become less effective.”

“The solution is often a rotation, or combination, of medications to continue to treat the condition.”

What is the difference between RLS and Periodic Leg Movement Syndrome PLMS?

Both these conditions are very similar although PLMS is repetitive involuntary movements of your leg that occur predominantly during sleep.

“PLMS and RLS are linked, as a large proportion of the people with RLS have PLMS, and vice versa,” Dr Phung says.

“The underlying secondary causes are very similar and the treatment is exactly the same.”

Magnesium supplements taken before bedtime can be simple to trial. Hot packs and cold packs can also be effective, as can a shower or exercise, or simple analgesia, such as Panadol.

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