Feb 10, 2022

How to Live With Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological sleep disorder that causes an irresistible urge and sensation to move the legs

From interrupting sleep to hurting job performance, and increasing anxiety and depression, RLS and its symptoms can significantly impact your life. Therefore finding the right treatments are vital to living with RLS.

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

RLS can cause throbbing, aching, or creeping feelings in the legs after being still too long, combined with a strong need to move around for relief. The feelings can range from uncomfortable to unbearable and are usually worse when lying down.

People who suffer from RLS also experience disruptive sleep, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), trouble concentrating, mood swings, and chronic medical conditions like heart disease and obesity

Lifestyle changes to cope with restless leg syndrome 

Treating the underlying condition, such as iron deficiency, can dramatically relieve symptoms of RLS. 

However, treatment concentrates on lifestyle changes if your RLS is not associated with another condition. If those aren't effective, your doctor might prescribe medications in addition.

Limit enabling factors

Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can trigger RLS, especially in mild cases. Restricting or eliminating these substances could help reduce your RLS symptoms. 

Revamp your diet

Eating healthy is important for everyone, especially those with RLS. Studies have shown a direct link between obesity and RLS. Working with your physician or a nutritionist to make modifications for a healthier diet can help you reach/maintain a more optimal weight. 

Vitamin B 12, folic acid, and iron deficiencies are also associated with RLS. So incorporating more foods rich with these can help fill these nutritional voids. Taking supplements may also help, but always consult your doctor before taking any medicine, including vitamins and supplements. 

Get active

We all know how important exercise is to our overall health and well-being. While RLS shouldn't hinder the ability to be physically active, there are a few tweaks you may need to make. 

  • Stick to a regular moderate exercise routine that's also consistent 

  • More isn't better. A high-intensity, high-impact workout can actually increase or RLS symptoms worse.

  • Focus on low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling, stretching, yoga, water aerobics, and pilates.

  • Don't exercise too close to bedtime, as it may trigger RLS symptoms.

Get hot (or cold)

Heat or cold can help relieve discomfort. Try a heating pad or cold compress whenever your RLS starts to flare up. You may also want to try soaking in the tub or taking a hot shower. 

Deciding on which one to apply to your legs depends on how you feel and how your body responds.

Create healthy sleep hygiene

Making some changes to your sleep habits can help ensure you get the most quality sleep possible. 

  • Have a consistent bed and wake up time.

  • Your bedroom should be a comfortable temperature, as well as quiet and dark.

  • Keep your bedroom reserved for sleep and sex. Avoid laying in bed to do work or watch TV. 

  • Try not to use electronics a few hours before bed

Massage and pressure 

Massage improves blood circulation while also helping you relax. Regularly massaging your legs before bed combined with other treatments can effectively manage RLS symptoms. 

Applying pressure is also an excellent way to alleviate pain and discomfort caused by RLS. When your symptoms flareup try:

Medication 

Certain prescription medicines play a big part in treating RLS symptoms. Often, doctors recommend a combination of lifestyle changes and medications for moderate to severe RLS. 

The FDA has approved four drugs for treating RLS:

Other medications prescribed to treat symptoms include: 

  • Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin, and lamotrigine

  • Opioids, including tramadol, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone. These medications can be highly addictive, so please consult your physician before starting. 

  • Muscle relaxants (benzodiazepines) and sleep aides- Most often prescribed when other treatments fail to provide relief. These medications help you sleep at night but don't get rid of the leg sensations.

Your doctor may suggest one or more medications, depending on the severity of symptoms. 

Final thoughts

Whether mild or severe, RLS can cause significant discomfort, sleep issues, and problems with day-to-day tasks. Finding treatment options that work for you should be a priority. 

Consult with your doctor to develop a plan that works for managing your RLS symptoms. At CareCard, we are passionate about helping make your prescription payments more affordable, saving members up to 85% on prescription drugs and medications. Learn how CareCard can help make your medication payments more manageable.

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