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  • Dr. Kelly Ashbeck

Restless Leg Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an urge to move the legs, usually associated with an unpleasant sensation. These symptoms tend to worsen during periods of rest, often at night, potentially disrupting sleep.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome caused by?

The exact cause of RLS is unclear. Newer research has shown that many individuals that suffer from the symptoms of restless leg syndrome have some change in dopamine production in specific portions of the brain. RLS is also linked with iron deficiency (sometimes not seen on lab results as it can be isolated in portions of the brain). Finally, for many, RLS has a genetic link. Regardless of the cause, we know RLS to be a condition of the nervous system that can range from mild to severe and debilitating. RLS is also associated with pregnancy, typically diminishing within a few weeks postpartum.

What can you do to help control your symptoms?

  • It is important for you to have your iron levels checked for iron deficiency.

  • Try to maintain good sleep hygiene, such as setting a sleep/wake schedule, avoid late afternoon naps, and avoiding stimulating activities just prior to sleep (such as electronics)

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine (specifically if your are sensitive to these drugs)

  • Exercise, specifically aerobic but also light resistance

  • Compression garment or stocking, specifically at night when symptoms are worst

  • Hot or cold bath prior to sleeping

  • TENS unit over affected limb just prior to sleeping

How can physical therapy help your Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms?

  • Education and development of a plan (including sleep hygiene and exercise)

  • Soft tissue mobilization and nerve gliding

  • Dry needling

  • Stress management techniques (potential trigger for RLS symptoms)

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