Warm Compresses Can Be Soothing
Heated or cooled pads, often used to relieve swelling caused by injuries and other conditions, have a long history as a home remedy. Dr. Berkowski says they can be effective by creating a new sensation for the brain to process, reducing the uncomfortable sensation produced by restless legs syndrome.
You can buy an inexpensive cold or warm compress at a store, but the simplest way to make one is to soak fabric in cold or warm water and place it against your skin.
What Are The Common Side Effects Of Restless Legs Syndrome Medication
All medications may have side effects, and different classes of medications have different side effects. However, this is not a complete list, and you should consult with your healthcare professional for possible side effects and drug interactions based on your specific situation.
Prescription dopamine agonists, gabapentinoids, and opioids all cause sleepiness, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness as common side effects.
Some severe side effects of dopamine agonists are hallucinations and serious impulse control problems, such as overeating or gambling recklessly. However, the most common serious side effects of dopamine agonists are augmentation and withdrawal.
Dopamine agonists have a high risk of withdrawal, called dopamine agonist withdrawal syndrome . Even when the drug is tapered, one out of five patients will experience psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts, as well as physical symptoms, including pain, nausea, and drug cravings.
The most serious side effects of gabapentinoids and opioids are drug abuse and overdose. An overdose of either drug can be fatal, but gabapentinoids, unlike opioids, do not have an antidote.
Pain relievers such as over-the-counter NSAIDs and acetaminophen are widely available and safe. NSAIDs, unlike acetaminophen, interfere with blood clotting, so their most serious side effects are bruising and bleeding, which may present in the digestive system.
The Power Of Prevention
- In the evening, avoid alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, which stimulate the muscles and nerves in your legs.
- Studies have found that smokers are more likely to have RLS than people who dont smoke.
- Avoid cold and sinus medications, which can make RLS symptoms much worse.
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Ask About Iron Supplements
Talk to your doctor about how much iron you should take, but John Hopkins notes that taking 325 milligrams of ferrous sulfate twice a day on an empty stomach for three months has helped some people improve their RLS symptoms.
Alternatively, you could try increasing your food sources of iron, including meat, poultry, fish and seafood, lentils, beans and spinach.
If lifestyle changes alone aren’t effective, medication therapy is also an option. While there isn’t one best medication for restless legs syndrome, Dr. Matta says there are different classes of drugs to try.
One of the most common types of medications used for restless legs syndrome are those that affect dopamine pathways in your brain, such as Ropinirole and Pramipexole. Some cases of RLS may be caused by a disruption of the dopamine pathways, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke , so giving medicine that increases dopamine might help.
These drugs can cause unpleasant side effects like nausea and lightheadedness, though, so they’re often started at very low doses.
If you’re pregnant or have an underlying medical condition, medication may not be the right choice for you. Make sure to tell your doctor about your medical history and any other symptoms you’re experiencing.
Reap The Benefits Of Peppermint
Peppermint has high menthol content that can help numb the restless feeling in your legs and provide pain relief to aching muscles.
- Drink a cup of peppermint tea before going to bed to relax the muscles and promote restful sleep. In fact, 3 to 4 cups of peppermint tea in a day is considered healthy.
- Alternatively, apply peppermint oil directly on the legs and then gently massage your legs for 5 to 10 minutes. This will help relieve tension.
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Surgery For Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels, often in the legs, that overfill with blood. This increased amount of blood can lead to superficial venous insufficiency , which means your body cant properly circulate blood. As a result, the blood pools in your legs.
In a 2008 study, 35 people with SVI and RLS had a procedure called endovenous laser ablation to treat their varicose veins. Of the 35 people, 84 percent of them had their RLS symptoms significantly improved or completely eliminated by the surgery .
Again, more research is needed on this surgery as a treatment for RLS.
If youre interested in any of these less-researched treatments, ask your doctor about them. Of course, you can try hot and cold treatments on your own, but your doctor can tell you more about the other treatments and whether they might be able to help you.
Lavender Oil Can Give You Relief
Lavender oil is often used as a relaxant and thus can help reduce symptoms of RLS. Additionally, the aromatic scent of the oil has a calming effect that can lull you to a good nights sleep.
- Simply rub a few drops of lavender oil on the bottom of each foot before getting into bed each night.
- Alternatively, add a few drops of lavender oil to a small tub of lukewarm water. Soak your feet in this water for 10 minutes before going to bed each night.
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Home Remedies To Stop The Restlessness Immediately
First, I would recommend completing any testing that your healthcare provider has recommended, and any abnormalities that are found should be corrected. The test provided by a medical healthcare provider is listed below. Hopefully, your testing has included an evaluation for vein disease. The first steps in stopping restless legs due to vein disease like venous insufficiency or pelvic vein compression are essentially home remedies and require no invasive procedures or conventional medications. They are as follows:
Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment: How To Stop Restless Legs With Home Remedies
Regular daily exercise can help, says Dr DAnna. But avoid exercising close to bedtime, he warns. Talk to your doctor about a plan that could work for you.
2. Find ways to relax
Relaxation exercises, such as yoga or tai chi, may help relieve your symptoms, says Dr DAnna. So can activities that distract your mind, such as reading or watching television, he suggests. A leg massage late in the day may also relax you and reduce RLS symptoms.
3. Say goodbye to stimulants
Avoid stimulants in the evening, such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol, says Dr D Anna. In some cases, caffeine makes the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome worse. Try to avoid drinking tea and coffee and see if it makes a difference. Alcohol can also cause issues so consider giving up booze. According to the RLS-UK website, alcohol consumption also increases the span or intensity of symptoms for most individuals and smoking wont help your symptoms either, so cut down or give up. These NHS services can help you quit.
4. Try hot and cold therapy
A warm bath before bed can help you relax and may ease symptoms. Alternatively, apply a hot or cold compress to your leg muscles, says Dr DAnna. You can also alternate between hot and cold compresses to relieve the twitching or pain.
Magnesium may help relax the muscles and lesson symptoms.
5. Give magnesium a go
6. Get your iron levels checked
7. Practice good sleep habits
8. Avoid certain medications
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Signs And Symptoms Of Restless Legs Syndrome
Not only do the signs and symptoms of restless legs syndrome differ from person to person, but they can be tricky to describe. Common descriptions include: a creepy-crawly feeling, tingling, itching, prickling, burning, pulling, tugging, and aching. Some people have said it feels like bugs are crawling up their legs, a fizzy soda is bubbling through their veins, or they have a deep bone itch. Sometimes the symptoms are painful, but usually they are simply uncomfortable and disturbing.
Medicines For Aiding Sleep
If restless legs syndrome is badly disrupting your sleep, a short-term course of medicine may be recommended to help you sleep.
Hypnotics are usually only recommended for short-term use .
You may find you still feel sleepy or “hungover” the morning after taking your medicine.
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When To Seek Help
Of course, home remedies have their limits. If these ideas dont work for you and they dont work for everyone dont hesitate to seek out the advice of a sleep expert.
Not everyone with restless legs needs to see a doctor, but severe cases can be debilitating. Some people feel so desperate and helpless, Dr. Berkowski says, as their lack of sleep can cause depression and anxiety.
He says to consult a doctor if either of the following applies to you:
- Your difficulties falling or staying asleep lead to you feeling sleepy or unrefreshed.
- Your sleep is disrupted at least two or three times a week.
If these home remedies still fall short, your doctor can provide you with more information about the potential prescription medicines that can help.
Lifestyle Management And Home Remedies
If the symptoms of restless legs syndrome are mild, lifestyle changes may be the only treatment needed. In these cases, there are plenty of natural treatments and home remedies that can be tried.
Adopting good sleep practices can help a person with restless legs syndrome get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can be one of the most disruptive consequences of RLS. Good sleep habits can include:
- Going to bed and waking up at regular times, even on the weekends or days off
- Not napping during the day
- Making sure the bedroom is dark, cool, quiet and comfortable
- Taking electronic equipment, such as TV and phone, out of the bedroom
Changes to diet may also help with reducing symptoms of restless legs syndrome:
- Avoid stimulants, like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, particularly before bed
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration
Certain activities can ease restless legs syndrome symptoms, such as:
- Regular, moderate exercise
- Avoid being confined in places, for example, choose an aisle seat at the movies or on a plane
- Massaging the legs
- Taking a warm bath
- RLS-UK suggests hot-cold therapy, a shower of alternating hot and cold water
- Simple leg stretches or getting up and walking a little as often as possible may help in confined spaces like a plane, as well as in daily life when e.g. working a desk job sitting all day
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For More Information About Restless Legs And How To Combat Them Try The Following Links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- If you have trouble sleeping, read our Home Remedies for Insomnia.
- If you keep the whole family awake at night, check out our Home Remedies for Snoring.
- To understand what happens when you get your zzz’s, go to How Sleep Works.
- Curious about how your brain works while you’re asleep? Read How Dreams Work.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University’s College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
Doctors with some expertise in restless legs syndrome hail from a wide variety of medical specialties. Although neurology seems to be the logical category for this mysterious ailment, which was first identified over 50 years ago, some of the most informative studies on the syndrome have come from doctors who have chanced upon it while treating conditions that seem to be totally unrelated. So where do you turn for help when home remedies fail? Ask your doctor for a referral to a sleep-disorders specialist or to one of the hundreds of sleep-disorders clinics in the United States.
Wear An Adjustable Foot Wrap
In a study published in 2016 in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, researchers at the Lake Erie Research Institute in Girard, Pennsylvania created an adjustable foot wrap that puts pressure on the foot muscles known to relax RLS symptoms. When they gave it to RLS patients to wear, they reported an 82 percent decrease in sleep loss, making it almost 1 1/2 times more effective than a standard pharmaceutical treatment. By putting pressure on specific muscles in the feet, we are able to create a response in the brain that relaxes the muscles activated during RLS, says Phyllis Kuhn, PhD, the studys lead author.
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When Does Restless Leg Syndrome Happen
Symptoms occur when the person is at rest or inactive, such as:
- Lying down
- In bed
- In a restricted space, like on a plane or at the movies
As a person is more likely to be at rest in the afternoon and evening, those are the parts of day when RLS symptoms are usually at their worst. For some of those affected by RLS, the symptoms may only occur occasionally, while for others they are present every day.
Symptoms tend to improve in the mornings with getting up, and whenever the person starts to move or walk around. Moving around as a remedy can cause problems when the person is trying to go to sleep.
Symptoms can vary in severity, from mild discomfort to being so disruptive and painful they affect day-to-day life. Sleep can be so disturbed that people have difficulty functioning during the day, which can commonly lead to depression and anxiety.
Worried you may have RLS? Start a symptom assessment on the Ada app.
Restless Legs Syndrome And Nutrition
Many cases of RLS are associated with iron deficiency, which can be treated with iron supplements. These have few side effects apart from stomach complaints and constipation, and they work to reduce symptoms of RLS in many people with low iron and ferritin levels or iron-deficiency anemia. After checking your iron and ferritin levels, your doctor may prescribe iron supplements alone or in conjunction with other medications.
Other vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and vitamin D may also play a role in RLS. Pregnant women in particular may benefit from folate supplements, while people with kidney problems may benefit from vitamin C and E supplements.
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Hot And Cold Treatments
While theres not a lot of research backing up using heat and cold to relieve RLS symptoms, many healthcare organizations recommend it. They include the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation .
These organizations suggest taking a hot or cold bath before going to bed, or applying hot or cold packs to your legs .
Some peoples RLS symptoms are aggravated by cold, while others have problems with heat. This could explain the benefits of these hot or cold treatments.
The Criteria For Selection And Assessment Of Papers
The Persian and English papers adapted from cross-sectional studies on RLS during the third trimester of pregnancy met the inclusion criteria to be included in the paper. On the other hand, other review studies, observational, and interventional studies were excluded from the list of the papers. Thereafter, the included studies were investigated based on PRISMA 2009 . In order to examine the studies, STROBE checklist was employed. Accordingly, the maximum quality check score was considered as 32.
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Restless Leg Syndrome And Pregnancy
Symptoms of RLS can spring up for the first time during pregnancy, usually in the last trimester. Data suggests that pregnant women may have two or three times higher risk of RLS.
The reasons for this arent well-understood. Some possibilities are vitamin or mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, or nerve compression.
Pregnancy can also cause leg cramps and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can be hard to distinguish from RLS. If youre pregnant and have symptoms of RLS, talk to your doctor. You may need to be tested for iron or other deficiencies.
You can also try some of these home care techniques:
- Avoid sitting still for prolonged periods, especially in the evening.
- Try to get a little exercise every day, even if its just an afternoon walk.
- Massage your legs or perform leg stretching exercises before bed.
- Try using heat or cold on your legs when theyre bothering you.
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoid antihistamines, caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.
- Make sure youre getting all the nutrients you need from your diet or from prenatal vitamins.
Some of the medications used to treat RLS are not safe to use during pregnancy.
RLS in pregnancy usually goes away on its own within weeks after giving birth. If it doesnt, see your doctor about other remedies. Be sure to mention if you are breast-feeding.