Senior Health

9/1/2020 | By Seniors Guide Staff

If you frequently feel an unpleasant sensation in your legs – like tingly pins and needles – especially at night, it could be restless leg syndrome.

Have you ever sat relaxed in your easy chair, or lain in bed, trying to get to sleep, when suddenly you feel an unpleasant sensation in your legs? A sensation that you’re unable to describe, except that it just feels…unpleasant?

Perhaps this sensation even wakes you up from a sound sleep. (And could be a reason for poor sleep in general!)

If this has happened to you frequently, it could be a medical condition called Willis-Ekbom disease – commonly referred to as restless leg syndrome (RLS).

It’s Not New

People around the world have suffered from “fidgets in their legs” probably since the dawn of time. It’s a neurological condition that has been well-known to the medical profession since the 1600s!

And according to the Sleep Foundation, about 1 out of every 10 American adults has this condition.

RLS Symptom Diary

  1. The main symptom of RLS is that, after an individual has been been sitting in a chair or lying in a bed for some time, their legs begin to feel uncomfortable in some way. They feel the need to move around to relieve this sensation.

The sensations usually aren’t felt on the skin, but within the legs themselves. There may be some kind of feeling of “crawling” or “creeping.”  It may be an itchy feeling, or an achy feeling – or simply a “strange” feeling that is impossible to describe!

  • Another symptom of RLS is that these sensations can be eased by stretching the legs, moving them around for a few minutes, or getting up and pacing the floor or going for a walk.
  • Symptoms of RLS usually occur in the evening or very early morning. That’s typically when people are able to rest and remain in one spot for an extended length of time.

Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep

If your legs twitch or kick on their own, possibly just once or twice a night or even throughout the night, that is a common condition called periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS).

According to the Sleep Health Foundation, about 40% of people 65 or older may have PLMS, and it’s as common in men as women.

If you think you may have PLMS, you can participate in a Sleep Study. Sensors are put on your legs which measure how often your legs move during the night.

If you have restless leg syndrome, you may have PLMS as well. However, if you have PLMS, that doesn’t mean that you’ll also have RLS.

RLS Symptom Diary

If you’re hesitant about visiting a doctor to see if you have RLS, try keeping a health journal, or an RLS Symptom Diary. Simply get a small notebook that you can keep by your armchair or on your bedside table. When your legs start to get that “uncomfortable” feeling – however that may manifest itself – write down in the notebook the day and time, and how long you had been sitting or laying down before it happened. Then write down how long it takes to disappear and what you did – such as moving your legs around or getting up and walking around.

If it happens more than once a week, a trip to the doctor is in order.

Restless Leg Syndrome Treatments

  1. Caffeine, a main ingredient in coffee or tea, can increase symptoms of RLS. Smoking and drinking have also been linked to aggravating the symptoms of RLS.
  2. Talk to your doctor if your symptoms start after you start to take medication for some other condition. Certain medications do aggravate RLS symptoms, such as tramadol (otherwise known as Ultram) or levothyroxine (Levoxyl).  (Don’t stop talking the medication before you talk to your doctor!)
  3. Watch what you eat.  In some studies, people have reported that their symptoms become worse after they’ve consumed a lot of sugar, of if they’ve been wearing tight clothing.
  4. Ask your doctor for a blood test to see if you have an iron deficiency. Some studies have shown that iron supplements do help lessen RLS symptoms. Magnesium supplements may help as well.
  5. If you’re mobile, try to take a long walk just before going to bed. Again, the participants in some studies report that long walks help their symptoms.

Medical Treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome

If you’ve tried the home treatments listed above and find your RLS is still preventing you from getting quality sleep, your doctor will be able to prescribe medication that may help.

There Is a Solution!

Don’t suffer from RLS needlessly. If you have any of the symptoms and find that the home remedies don’t help, talking to your doctor is the logical step.

Seniors Guide Staff

Seniors Guide has been addressing traditional topics and upcoming trends in the senior living industry since 1999. We strive to educate seniors and their loved ones in an approachable manner, and aim to provide them with the right information to make the best decisions possible.

Seniors Guide Staff