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RLS Remedies

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Restless leg syndrome is a manageable disorder. Many prefer to use natural home RLS remedies to keep their restless leg under control.

Restless leg syndrome is non-life threatening, but very disruptive health disorder.

RLS can drastically affect the quality of life, reducing sleep and causing many uncomfortable situations, as the legs often feel they need to move during times when getting up and moving may not be easy or possible.

There are several medications for RLS, but often those suffering from the disorder prefer to depend on more natural strategies. Below are several natural and home remedies for restless leg syndrome that you can try.

Preventive Remedies for RLS

Prevention is the key to combatting RLS. Most strategies are designed to stop RLS when it occurs, but ideally, you want to control how often you experience RLS symptoms at all. For that, consider the following remedies for restless leg syndrome:

Dietary Changes

First and foremost, you'll need to make some dietary changes. Cutting out caffeine may be a good place to start. Caffeine intake has been linked to bouts of RLS, including caffeine from chocolate and sodas.

Improving your vitamin intake is valuable as well. Restless leg syndrome has been linked to iron deficiency, B12 deficiency, and many others.

Ensuring you're getting enough of these vitamins is important for preventing and managing restless leg syndrome, and should be part of any remedy for RLS.

Drink Tea

Another instant remedy for restless legs and insomnia is old-fashioned hot tea. How does hot tea help? The herbal ingredients in hot tea contain sleep-inducing herbs that can help you get over RLS and have instant relief from your itch to move. Choose teas with sleep-promoting ingredients such as:

Teas that Promote Sleep
  •  Chamomile
  • L-Thymine
  • Magnolia bark
  • Roseroot
  • Kava kava
  • Valerian root

Stretching

Restless leg syndrome involves an intense feeling of unrest in your legs (and other parts of your body) that causes disruptive sensations and an uncontrollable desire to move.

These symptoms are relieved through movement, so those that experience RLS often start moving to reduce the symptoms.

Many people walk around, some people massage their legs, but one of the most commonly recommended types of movement is stretching.

Stretching and RLS – Before and During

There are two ways to use stretching to reduce RLS. The first is to stretch during an RLS attack. This relieves many of the negative sensations.

Others use stretching exercises for RLS prevention. While it should never be your only home method of reducing restless leg, it does appear that regular stretching may reduce the frequency and severity of RLS symptoms.

There doesn't appear to be a difference between stretches for restless legs, but there also has not been a great deal of research into the area. At the moment, it's best to assume that all stretches for RLS are created equal, and if you want to test out more specific stretches in order to see which ones relieve RLS better, you should consider talking it over with a physician.

Types of Stretching Exercises for RLS

You're encouraged to get up and move or walk around as much as possible if you suffer from RLS. Movement, in general, is a form of stretching because it warms up your leg muscles. If you find yourself sitting too often during the day (such as behind a desk) make sure you stand up often and move around.

Other leg stretches are more about tiring the muscle and can be focused on your entire leg or just the areas that appear to be most affected by your RLS.

More specific leg stretching exercises for RLS include:

Back Thigh Stretch

One type of stretch involves placing one leg on a high surface, like a couch, with your leg straight. Then, safely, bend forward with your back straight until you feel it stretch the muscle. Hold for 15 or so seconds and switch legs.

Calf Stretching

Another stretch is a calf stretch. There are several types of calf stretches. One involves holding out your palms against a wall. You place your left foot behind your right foot by a few feet, almost as though you're trying to push the wall and putting one foot back for leverage. With your back straight and your heels firmly against the floor, you bend your right knee so that it puts pressure on the calf and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

Thigh Stretch

First, you stand straight near something you can grab if you lose your balance. Then with your back straight you grab on leg by the foot and pull it up towards your buttocks. Hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the other foot.

Additional Stretching Exercises

It's important to remember that none of these exercise has been specifically tested. In general, the idea is to simply safely stretch the muscle just as you would before exercising or jogging. Stretching essentially makes the muscle loosen, so how you stretch is not necessarily as important (as long as it's done safely) as the stretching itself.

Similarly, make sure you're also stretching other muscles that affect you when you're suffering from RLS. Some people experience RLS symptoms in their arms or trunk, and these may also be relieved by stretching.

Yoga can also be valuable, as yoga itself is a form of stretching that also has exercise and stress components that may also help with your RLS.

Regardless, always talk to your doctor before starting any RLS exercise program, especially if you have any physical limitations that could prevent you from stretching safely.

Stretching to Reduce Restless Leg Syndrome

The key is to make sure that you're keeping your muscles tired. Stretching takes away some of the energy out of your muscles, and that energy reduction appears to be one of the ways to both relieve restless leg and prevent it from occurring. It's especially valuable as a way to nearly immediately reduce RLS symptoms, although many say that they come back when you lay down again.

Stretching before bed appears to be effective at preventing some RLS episodes, but only if it's combined with other lifestyle changes. It does not appear that stretching can relieve RLS completely, or that there are any specific stretches that are better or worse for RLS, but more research is needed to be sure.

Moderate (but not intense) aerobic exercise is also a tool to combat RLS. Generally, by running or fast walking before the RLS symptoms kick in, the body doesn't appear to need as much stimulation, and so restless leg symptoms appear to decrease.

It's not clear what the connection is between exercise and RLS, but aerobic exercise does appear to be an effective remedy for restless leg.

Wear Socks to Sleep

Because the cause of restless leg syndrome is still unclear, many of the working remedies for restless leg sound unusual, but still appear to work for reasons that researchers still don't know.

It's been shown that cold feet tend to lead to RLS. So wearing warm socks to sleep acts as a natural RLS remedy, and one that can potentially prevent some symptoms – especially if you are someone that appears to have colder feet at night.

Take a Warm Bath Before Bed

Changing the temperature between hot and cold also appears to affect RLS frequency.

Experts appear to recommend taking a warm bath right before you go to bed. The change in temperature may excite the legs, reducing their need to be active. They also could relax the body, and a relaxed body is less prone to waking up as a result of restless leg syndrome.

Essential Oils

Certain smells are known to promote sleep and fight insomnia. Choose these scents to have around at home during bedtime, such as in your bath, with candles in your room, or through simple oil infusions in pillows or potpourri.

Scents that Promote Sleep 
  • Lavender
  • Ylang ylang
  • Rose
  • Geranium
  • Chamomile
  • Clary sage
  • Marjoram
  • Jasmine
  • Sandalwood
  • Bergamot

 On the opposite end of the spectrum, avoid smells in your bath products and room that promote wakefulness. Stimulating scents include grapefruit, peppermint, lemon, pine, and rosemary.

Try a Massage

Some evidence suggests that massaging the muscles before bed makes it less likely you'll wake with jumpy legs or have trouble sleeping. One easy way to do it is alternate hot and cold packs placed on the legs each for five minutes. Repeat for 15 minutes before bed. Relaxing in an Epsom-salt bath filled with warm water can also help reduce your risk of restless sleep.

Relax Before Bed

If you have restless leg syndrome, you probably can’t relax at night, which means you will sleep poorly, or not at all. In addition to taking vitamins and supplements to help promote sleep, you can also take these relaxing measures to ensure you provide a night routine that encourages sleep.

Remove stress: Stress and an overactive mind will lead to a host of trouble when it comes to night sleep. There are several ways you can try to lower your stress levels. These include meditating, stretching, writing down your next day’s work on a piece of paper so you don’t have to think about it, and trying to focus on relaxing. Sometimes strategies like progressive relaxation- where you physically try to relax your body starting from the toes up- can be quite effective at lowering stress levels.

Take a bath or shower: A warm bath or shower is quite relaxing at the end of a long day. The warm water can relax tired muscles and help you release any tension from the day. If you add essential oils to the bath, you can also promote relaxation and sleep.

Try sleep-inducing activities: If you do 20 jumping jacks before bed, then you are not likely to feel sleepy when you get into bed. Save all brain-intensive activities or physically-intensive activities for earlier in the day. Before bed, engage in calming activities, like meditation, stretching, or reading (if you do read, avoid using e-readers or a computer screen. Blue light from electronics can disrupt the production of melatonin, which could disrupt your sleep cycle).

Create a Stress-Free Sleep Environment

You can make your bedroom a haven of rest at night. This will help not only avoid RLS symptoms but also set your mind to prepare for bed each night. The more routine your bedtime strategy is, the more likely you will be to feel rested and avoid RLS symptoms. Use these steps to keep your rest unbroken:

Schedule bedtime: A routine is essential for the production of hormones that regulate your sleep cycle. Try to go to bed within 30 minutes of the same time each night.

Remove attention-grabbing items: Do you keep electronics in your room? Don’t. Electronics and other brain-stimulating activities and items will make it difficult for your brain to reset at night. In addition to removing electronics, you should also remove any blue light-emitting items, which can interfere with the production of melatonin (which is responsible for regulating your sleep cycles).

Make your bed comfortable: If your bed huts you, you will not get a good night’s sleep. The best way to promote healthy sleep is by ensuring that your bed is comfortable and supportive for your particular sleep habits. If you are pregnant, a body pillow can be helpful in providing the necessary support to sleep well at night.

Herbal Remedies for RLS

Herbal remedies are a popular choice for those dealing with restless leg syndrome.

Restless leg is not a life-threatening disorder, so those many of those suffering from RLS prefer to use a treatment route that isn't as heavy or chemical rich as some of the medicines that doctors prescribe for RLS.

While benzodiazepines and dopamine agonists are all useful in their own way, they're also addictive, may have side effects, could have long term repercussions, and so on. As is often the case, many prefer the idea of using herbs for restless legs to combat the disorder without any of these potentially dangerous chemicals.

Restless Leg Syndrome Herbs

Interestingly, there are not many herbs for RLS used by nutritionists and herbal medicine enthusiasts.

Generally, doctors recommend vitamin supplements as a natural treatment for RLS instead. Vitamins have been medically linked to both causing and treating restless leg syndrome, and since they're natural and safe for most users, they're usually the first choice that natural medicine experts use for RLS.

Still, there are some RLS herbs that are popular for those living with restless leg syndrome. These include:

Valerian Root

Valerian root is a common herb for restless legs. Valerian is a natural sedative and sleep aid. The value of valerian is not in the restless legs itself – although there is some evidence that valerian may reduce leg twitching. Rather, valerian root is believed to help people sleep.

A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing measured the sleep disturbances and RLS severity of 37 patients taking valerian root or placebo. Those taking valerian root reported a considerable decrease in both sleepiness and restless leg symptoms.

This study and others do indicate that valerian may be a useful supplement to use to counter RLS symptoms. It doesn't treat the disorder (in the sense that the person will still have the same degree of RLS) but it makes the disorder less disruptive.

Fava Beans

Fava beans are a lesser-known but potentially effective solution for improving RLS.

Many studies have posited that restless leg syndrome is affected by dopamine levels. It's not clear what affects dopamine levels in general, but the symptoms of RLS appear to change over the same cycle as dopamine, and many dopamine agonists have been proven effective at relieving RLS.

Fava beans are one of the most L-Dopa rich foods in the world. L-Dopa creates dopamine in the brain. It's a standard treatment for Parkinson's disease and has been linked to treating restless leg syndrome as well.

As of this writing, no studies have been conducted to test whether fava beans are an effective herb for restless leg syndrome. But the link between the two is fairly clear, so it is possible that fava beans and fava bean extract can potentially relieve RLS symptoms.

Skull Cap

Skull cap may also be a valuable RLS herb.

What's interesting about skull cap is that it may provide several benefits to those living with RLS. Some of these benefits include:

Benefits of Skullcap

Skullcap is believed to be a natural sedative. Like valerian root, skullcap could presumably improve sedation and sleep quality, leading to fewer consequences of RLS. This sedation may also reduce stress, which is important for controlling the severity of RLS.

Skullcap is believed to be an antispasmodic. Many people use skullcap for menstrual cramps, but presumably, the same antispasmodic properties would be beneficial for those trying to control their RLS symptoms.

Skullcap may improve dopamine levels. It's not clear how or by how much, but some early research showed that skullcap was beneficial for maintaining a healthy dopamine balance.


The greatest mark against skullcap is the significant lack of research for RLS specifically.

Research does appear to have confirmed many of its sedation and other properties, but little research has been done for RLS specifically. Nevertheless, it remains a popular herb for restless legs.

Other Dopamine Agonists

Because of the link to dopamine, many dopamine agonists may be valuable for those living with restless legs. Indeed, some of the most common medicines given to those with RLS are actually Parkinson's medications that are being used off-label.

It stands to reason that other dopamine agonists may be beneficial as well. Cowhage is an herb that contains a high amount of L-Dopa, while both Gingko and Brahmi appear to improve blood flow in the brain, leading to higher concentrations of dopamine.

Unfortunately, very little research has been conducted on the effects of these herbs. Because of the lack of research (and lack of safety studies), it's recommended that you only take these restless leg syndrome herbs under the supervision of a doctor.

Other Sleep Aids/Sedatives

In addition to other dopamine agonists, it may also be possible for other natural sedatives and sleep aids to make living with RLS easier.

Unfortunately, the same qualities apply. There is simply not enough research to be certain that any of the sleep aid or sedation like herbs have any effect on RLS. It's quite possible that they do, but without confirmation, it is hard to confirm one way or the other that any of these sleep supplements could be herbs for RLS.

Nevertheless, here are some of the most common sleep aid herbs, for those that are interested in something other than valerian and skullcap:

  • Kava
  • Chamomile
  • Passionflower
  • Lemon Balm
  • Avena

Some also posit that Marijuana (cannabis) may also be valuable as a restless leg herb, but due to the legal issues surrounding marijuana it has not yet been studied and is difficult to recommend.

Herbs for RLS

Because of the nature and causes of restless leg syndrome, herbs for restless leg syndrome are generally used in combination with another type of natural supplement, usually, one containing the vitamins for RLS.

In addition, there is not a great deal of research into herbs for RLS, making it a bit difficult to provide recommendations. Nevertheless, valerian and skull cap are both commonly used herbs to treat RLS, and several other herbs have the potential to provide the same types of benefits.

Vitamin Remedies for RLS

Many studies link a lack of vitamins to RLS symptoms. In particular, deficiencies in iron, calcium, magnesium, folic acid, and B vitamins can trigger restless legs. Adding more of these vitamins to your diet could reduce your symptoms and relieve the frequency of instances. Read on to learn more about vitamin deficiency and RLS:

Calcium and Magnesium

A lack of magnesium is commonly associated with restless leg syndrome, particularly in women. Magnesium is involved in RLS because it is used to push calcium out of cells. When calcium levels are too high in the muscles, your muscles cannot relax, which can trigger RLS symptoms. Deficiency in magnesium has been linked with charlie horses, jerking, twitching, and tightening muscles.

However, supplementing with just magnesium can deplete calcium levels too quickly. That is why many medical experts recommend taking calcium and magnesium together, in a 1:1 ratio.

Folic Acid

Folic acid depletion is commonly associated with RLS symptoms (particularly in pregnant women). Individuals with RLS are commonly low in iron, dopamine, and folic acid. Supplementing with folic acid can help relieve the worst symptoms of RLS.

Iron

Iron is a trace mineral in living systems. It is especially notable for forming essential protein complexes. Examples of these important biological entities include the oxygen-carrying component of hemoglobin, a related molecule in cellular metabolism called cytochrome and the enzyme, catalase.

In humans, free iron is unavailable because of the biological toxicity of the elemental ions. Instead, iron is bound to different proteins such as transferrin which is responsible for transporting iron absorbed into the duodenum through the blood to the cells.

Inside these cells, iron is bound to ferritin for the same reasons.

Iron is a pretty common mineral available in different plant and animal dietary sources. Common foods with rich stores of iron include red meat, fish, poultry, vegetable, beans, and fortified cereals.

Dietary sources of iron are generally classified into two: heme iron and non-heme iron sources.

Heme iron is more easily broken down and absorbed than non-heme iron. It is also the form of dietary iron incorporated into the hemoglobin and other heme proteins.

Meat is a prime source of heme iron while vegetables provide non-heme iron.

Because of its high potential for toxicity, iron uptake, storage, distribution, and utilization are strictly regulated in the body. This is especially important because the body has no established mechanism for excreting iron except for the minimal amount lost to the shedding of mucosal and epithelial cells.

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies. It occurs for a number of reasons including:

  • Increased demand for iron which is not met by dietary sources
  • Increased loss of iron due to blood loss
  • Reduced dietary intake of iron including malabsorption of the mineral

Iron deficiency is also known as sideropenia or hypoferremia. It is usually common in children and menstruating women.

Symptoms of iron deficiency can occur early before the nutritional imbalance cause more serious problems. Such symptoms include fatigue, dizziness, weakness, pallor, painful wasting away of mucosal surfaces, hair loss, impaired immunity, and restless leg syndrome.

Individuals with RLS tend to also be low in iron. Studies have found that individuals with RLS are typically much lower in iron than the average person. Low iron and dopamine lead to neurological symptoms, like creepy crawly legs and the inability to relax. Iron supplementation should be monitored by a doctor, as it is possible to overdose on iron.

Iron supplementation works best for restless leg syndrome patients with iron deficiency.

There are different forms of iron supplements available each with its own absorption profile. Iron supplements should be taken between meals for maximal absorption. However, it can also be taken with food especially when it causes a gastrointestinal disturbance.

65 mg of iron (325 mg for ferrous sulfate; the equivalent will depend on the actual iron supplement taken) taken 3 times daily is the recommended dosage for treating this syndrome. You should also drink a lot of water after taking iron pills.

Usually, iron is not the only nutritional supplement that should be used in the treatment of restless leg syndrome. Since folate levels are also low in many patients with this syndrome, a folic acid supplement may also be combined.

Therefore, a good approach is to use a combination of nutritional supplements containing minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and herbal extracts proven to improve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

A good example of such a nutritional supplement is Sedorum.

Iron, Restless Leg Syndrome, and the Brain

In a 2005 paper published in the Journal of Sleep Research, Japanese researchers examined how the level of iron in the central nervous system contributes to restless leg syndrome.

In that study, 10 patients with idiopathic restless leg syndrome and 10 insomnia patients without the syndrome were recruited. The levels of iron, ferritin, and transferrin in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid were measured for each of the patients.

While there was only a small difference between the serum values of iron, ferritin and transferring for the two patients groups, there were marked differences in measurements for the cerebrospinal fluid.

The iron and ferritin levels in the cerebrospinal fluids were lower in patients with restless leg syndrome.

However, the transferrin levels in the CSF were higher for patients with the syndrome than those without.

The results showed that the low iron levels in the brains (specifically, in the substantia nigra) of restless leg syndrome patients are most likely caused by inefficient transportation of iron from the serum to the central nervous system.

This means that idiopathic restless leg syndrome is most likely caused by a dysfunctional transport system for iron and, therefore, low levels of the mineral crossing the blood-brain barrier.

Iron, Restless Leg Syndrome, and Dopaminergic Pathway

In a 2009 paper published in Brain: A Journal of Neurology, an in-depth look into the functioning of the brain in restless leg patients was done with autopsy study of the brains of such patients.

The researchers found that the brains of restless leg syndrome patients showed no evidence of damaged cells. Rather, they found that the receptors that help brain cells absorb iron are not well regulated especially in cells that produce dopamine.

This confirms the link between iron and the dopaminergic pathway.

The brain examination also confirmed that iron levels in the substantia nigra of the brain were low. In addition, there were only a few receptors for transferrin (the protein that helps transport iron into the cells).

Other proteins needed for iron transport and storage were also found in very low amounts.

This study explains why some restless leg syndrome patients have normal serum levels of iron; why iron supplementation works for patients with no iron deficiencies; and why CSF iron levels are a better measure of iron levels for people living with this syndrome.

Therefore, restless leg syndrome is not strictly caused by iron deficiency even though iron supplementation improves its symptoms.

Rather, the syndrome is caused by problems with iron transportation and delivery to the brain.

This iron insufficiency leads to reduced production of dopamine. Low levels of dopamine mean that there is lesser control of motor activity which then produces the restless movement seen with the syndrome.

B Vitamins

Low vitamin B12 levels are commonly associated with RLS in addition to low iron and magnesium levels. Reduced levels of B12 contribute to damage to the central nervous system responsible for regulating pain and feeling. RLS is associated with damage to neurons that control movement and twitching in the leg muscles. Adding more vitamin B12 to the diet could have a positive influence on the nervous system regulating the legs and reduce symptoms of RLS.

Chinese Herbs for RLS

Those that practice Chinese medicine may also enjoy Chinese herbs for RLS. These herbs have very little research but are considered "time-tested" in the sense that they have been in existence for centuries and are believed to combat the main issues that contribute to restless leg syndrome.

Chinese medicine is not as set in stone as many believe, and much of it is open for interpretation. Most Chinese herbal remedies for RLS are based on a combination of herbal extracts and acupuncture. Both the herbs and medicine deal with the following areas:

  • Internal Liver Wind – The liver wind affects movement, cramping, and convulsions.
  • Liver Yin Deficiency – Liver Yin affects knees and mental restlessness.
  • Qi/Blood Deficiency – Qi and blood affect the health of the lower limbs.

Each of these is usually combined with some type of acupuncture treatment designed to improve all three of these areas of ill health.

Treatment Remedies for RLS

The above remedies for RLS are all used before an incident strikes. But when RLS hits, you want to get rid of it as fast as possible. It does not feel pleasant to have legs that will not hold still and keep you up at night when you're tired. The above remedies work well for getting rid of RLS and preventing it from happening again, but before herbal and vitamin remedies kick in, you may experience a few instances of RLS. If that happens, try the following treatment methods:

OTC Medication

OTC medication will help reduce pain in the legs. Any NSAID can be used to treat the painful symptoms of RLS. Typically, OTC medication will not stop any restless feelings, but it can reduce pain enough so you can fall back asleep. If you find you have to take OTC medication every night, speak to a doctor to see if a stronger RLS medication may be necessary to temporarily stop your RLS symptoms before the preventive treatments kick in.

Prescription Medication

Doctors prescribe prescription medication for severe RLS. The FDA has approved three medications to treat RLS symptoms:

  • Horizant: Used to treat pain and twitching.
  • Mirapex: Used to relax the leg muscles that cause movement.
  • Requip: Used to reduce twitching and leg movement.

Massage

If you don't want to take medication, you still have treatment options. Massaging your legs when they are feeling pained and twitching can help relax the muscles and prevent twitching. After massaging the legs, try soaking your legs in a hot bath with Epsom salt added until symptoms subside.

Exercise

Although daily exercise during waking hours will help prevent RLS symptoms, if you wake and need to move, a brief walk around your house (or the yard), may sometimes be enough to relieve your RLS symptoms and let you get back to sleep. Don't try anything too vigorous or you may have a hard time getting back to sleep. Gentle, short exercises will help relieve RLS symptoms and still allow you to return to sleep that night. 

Appropriate Remedies for RLS

There are countless available home remedies for RLS.

Vitamin treatments are the most common and most effective because RLS has been medically linked to vitamin intake issues.

But many of these home remedies for RLS may be effective as well. Some, like the Ivory Soap idea, is probably not going to have much of an effect. But others, like Valerian extract, could be genuinely valuable as a restless leg treatment.

The key is to choose one that is right for your health and that you can easily integrate into your lifestyle. RLS isn't curable, but it is preventable with regular upkeep. 

Sources


http://www.encognitive.com/

http://acuchu.com/%20/uncategorized/treating-restless-leg-syndrome/

http://www.everydayhealth.com/restless-legs-syndrome/guide/treatment/

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