Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that affects a significant portion of the population. If you’ve ever experienced a restless night, struggling to find a comfortable sleeping position, you may be familiar with the frustration it brings. This discomfort not only hinders your ability to sleep but also triggers a chain reaction of negative effects on your body due to lack of sleep.

For 80% of RLS sufferers, this condition manifests as uncontrollable leg jerking or twitching, predominantly at night. If you fall into the unfortunate 7-10% of the U.S. population affected by restless legs syndrome, you’re likely seeking ways to alleviate the restlessness and minimize pain.

In this article, we will provide you with a comprehensive overview of restless legs syndrome, including common signs to watch out for if you suspect your leg discomfort extends beyond the ordinary.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move one’s legs, often accompanied by an uncomfortable sensation in the limbs.

The only way to lessen the pain is to move your legs.

Many people describe the feeling as a creeping, crawling, or tingling sensation in the legs that forces them to move or stretch their legs to alleviate the discomfort.

This condition can occur at any age, although it is more common in middle-aged and elderly individuals. The intensity of the symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can disrupt sleep and daily activities.

The exact causes of RLS are not yet fully understood, although it is thought to be related to an imbalance of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that regulates movement in the central nervous system. Certain medications, chronic diseases like kidney failure, iron deficiency, and pregnancy can increase the risk or worsen the unpleasant sensations in the legs. There is currently no cure for RLS or medication, but various treatment options are available to manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for those affected.

How Do I know If I’m Experiencing Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move your legs, making it difficult to sit or lie down for extended periods of time.

The symptoms of RLS include uncomfortable sensations in the legs, such as a creeping, crawling, or tingling feeling, which is often referred to as an “itchy” sensation. RLS symptoms generally worsen during the evening or at night and can disrupt sleep, leading to excessive daytime sleepiness and decreased quality of life.

The pain often eases up when you move your legs.

For RLS sufferers, being still often makes symptoms worse. A desk job, sitting in a car or sleeping often exacerbate the restless feeling and pain associated with it. This causes suffers to feel the need to move to improve the pain.

Restless Leg Syndrome Makes Sleeping a Challenge

Because RLS is worse when at rest and often deteriorates in the evenings, sleeping is a frustrating challenge for restless leg syndrome sufferers. Not only does RLS make it difficult to sleep, it often wakes you up because of movements or pain.

For some RLS sufferers, the periodic limb movements (PLMS), happen every 20 seconds through the night. This can make it incredibly difficult to sleep. The movements can also affect your partner’s night sleep if you share a bed with them.

RLS is typically diagnosed based on the presentation of symptoms, their severity, and the timing of their occurrence. In addition to a clinical exam, a healthcare provider may order a sleep study or blood test to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms.

Anyone who suspects they may be suffering from RLS should speak to their healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

How to Treat Restless Legs Syndrome

Taking Supplements Can Improve RLS

Studies have shown that RLS is often associated with iron deficiency, folic acid, and magnesium deficiencies. Therefore, supplementing your diet with these essential nutrients may help alleviate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome and are often great home remedies. Iron supplements are the most commonly prescribed supplements for RLS as they help maintain iron levels in the blood and as a treatment of restless legs syndrome.

Folic acid is essential in creating new red blood cells, which are responsible for supplying oxygen to the muscles.

Magnesium supplements can help to reduce muscle spasms that cause discomfort and pain in the legs. Other supplements, such as Vitamins B12, E, and C, as well as calcium and potassium, may also have beneficial effects on RLS symptoms.

Always ensure to consult with your healthcare provider prior to taking supplements for RLS, as they can have potential side effects when taken with other medications.

Exercise Helps Relieve Pain of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome not only affects the quality of sleep but often leads to sleep deprivation, anxiety, and depression. However, regular exercise and yoga have proven to be effective to ease RLS symptoms. Exercise can aleviate the pain of Restless Legs Syndrome by boosting blood flow, increasing oxygen supply to the muscles, and releasing endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

Moreover, exercise can lower stress levels, one of the leading triggers of restless leg syndrome. Practicing yoga can also be beneficial for individuals with RLS. Yoga postures that involve stretching, such as seated forward fold, standing forward bend, and butterfly pose, can help to ease muscle tension in the legs and improve flexibility. This can dramatically relieve RLS symptoms.

Additionally, practicing breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation techniques, such as Yoga Nidra, can further alleviate symptoms. By incorporating exercise and yoga into their daily routine, individuals with RLS can improve their quality of life and reduce the frequency and severity of RLS symptoms.

Vein Procedures Can Remedy RLS and Relieve Symptoms

Varicose veins and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) are two vein disorders that have been associated with Restless Leg Syndrome. Varicose veins occur when the valves within leg veins malfunction, causing blood to pool and the veins to twist and bulge. DVT, on the other hand, is a blood clot that forms in the deep veins of the leg and can cause leg swelling, pain, and tenderness. Both of these vein disorders have been linked to Restless Leg Syndrome, however, the exact relationship between them is still being studied.

It has long been known that Restless Leg Syndrome is more common in individuals with varicose veins. Recent studies have also shown a higher incidence of Restless Leg Syndrome in individuals newly diagnosed with DVT. Additionally, some research suggests that treating varicose veins or DVT can alleviate Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms. However, further studies are needed to fully understand the relationship between vein disorders and Restless Leg Syndrome. Vein procedures can often be an effective treatment for RLS.

It is important to note that not all individuals with Restless Leg Syndrome have varicose veins or DVT, and not all individuals with vein disorders experience Restless Leg Syndrome. However, recognizing the potential link between these conditions can help healthcare providers better diagnose and treat their patients.

Varicose veins can be treated with a variety of procedures. These often help ease your RLS symptoms.


One of the most common procedures for treating varicose veins is sclerotherapy. During this procedure, a solution is injected into the veins using a small needle. This solution irritates the lining of the veins, causing them to close off. Over time, the veins will shrink and eventually disappear completely.

Endovenous Laser Treatment

Another popular treatment option for varicose veins is endovenous laser treatment. This procedure uses laser energy to heat the inside of the veins, causing them to shrink and eventually collapse. Like sclerotherapy, the treated veins will eventually disappear from sight.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy

An Ambulatory Phlebectomy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that is typically used to treat varicose veins. During the procedure, a small incision is made near the affected vein, and a special tool is used to remove the damaged portion of the vein, which is then removed through the incision. This procedure usually takes less than an hour, and most patients are able to return to their normal activities within a few days. Additionally, Ambulatory Phlebectomy is considered a safe and effective method for treating varicose veins, with a success rate of up to 90%.

There is help for sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that not only disrupts sleep but can also significantly impact an individual’s quality of life. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, it’s possible to manage and reduce the symptoms of RLS. While taking supplements, engaging in regular exercise, and practicing yoga can all be beneficial, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new treatment regimen. As research continues, we’re beginning to understand the potential link between RLS and vein disorders, providing more treatment options for those suffering from this condition. Always remember, effective management of RLS begins with education and understanding.

FAQ on RLS, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and more

Q: What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?

A: Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder characterized by the irresistible urge to move the legs. It is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, typically worsened during periods of rest or inactivity.

Q: What are the common symptoms of RLS?

A: The common symptoms of RLS include an urge to move the legs, usually accompanied by uncomfortable sensations such as tingling, crawling, or aching. These symptoms are typically worse at night or during periods of inactivity, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Q: What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but there are several factors that may contribute to its development. These include genetic predisposition, abnormal levels of dopamine in the brain, certain medical conditions (such as iron deficiency anemia or kidney failure), and the use of certain medications.

Q: How is Restless Legs Syndrome diagnosed?

A: There is no specific test to diagnose RLS, but a medical professional can make a diagnosis based on the individual’s symptoms and medical history. The International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group has established diagnostic criteria, which include the presence of the characteristic urge to move the legs and uncomfortable leg sensations that are worse at rest or in the evening.

Q: What are the treatment options for Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: The treatment of RLS usually involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and home remedies. Some common treatment options include exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, taking iron supplements (if iron deficiency is present), and medications such as dopamine agonists, opioids, or anticonvulsants.

Q: What are some home remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: Some home remedies that may help relieve RLS symptoms include soaking in a warm bath, applying heat or cold packs to the legs, massaging the legs, practicing relaxation techniques, and establishing a regular sleep routine. It is important to note that these remedies may not work for everyone, and it is best to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice.

Q: Are there any over-the-counter medications for Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: While there are over-the-counter medications available for other conditions, there are currently no specific over-the-counter medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of RLS. It is recommended to consult with a doctor before trying any over-the-counter remedies.

Q: What are the prescription medications commonly used to treat Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: Some prescription medications commonly used to treat RLS include dopamine agonists (such as pramipexole or ropinirole), opioids (such as oxycodone or codeine), and anticonvulsants (such as gabapentin or pregabalin). The choice of medication depends on the severity of symptoms and individual response.

Q: Are there any side effects of the medications used for Restless Legs Syndrome?

A: Like any medication, the medications used to treat RLS may cause side effects in some individuals. Common side effects include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and headache. It is important to discuss any concerns or side effects with a healthcare professional.

Q: Can Restless Legs Syndrome be cured?

A: There is no known cure for RLS, but the condition can be managed with appropriate treatment. A treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs can help reduce symptoms and improve sleep quality.