If you have a hard time sitting still and find yourself constantly fidgeting, you may have a condition called restless legs syndrome (RLS). This condition is characterized by an irresistible urge to move your legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations like tingling, crawling, or creeping. RLS can be especially troublesome at night, causing you to wake up frequently with the urge to move your legs.
This can lead to sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue. If you have experienced these symptoms, it is worth talking to a healthcare professional to determine if you may have RLS.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is an ailment and is thought to run in families. It’s a condition that results in many unpleasant feelings, often during moments of rest and prolonged inactivity. RLS is also linked with numerous conditions and diseases like sleep apnea and certain medicines. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, RLS affects up to 10% of adults and 4% of kids in the U.S.
Know the Symptoms
If you have RLS, you know that the most annoying and uncomfortable symptom is the urge to move your legs, either through walking or other motions. Some people say dismissively that you just have “ants in your pants,” but the symptoms are more intense than such a feeling. Symptoms may include:
- Sensations that begin when you’re resting.
- You may obtain short-term relief by moving.
- Discomfort worsens in the evening.
- Your legs twitch at night.
Many of these symptoms can be managed, sometimes with treatment like ketamine therapy.
What Causes RLS?
No one knows what causes restless legs syndrome. Some instances are linked to other conditions, including pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia (or a lack of healthy red blood cells), or kidney failure. There is no discernible reason for RLS in some cases, though there could be a genetic component as it’s believed to be hereditary.
Depending on your health, you may take certain medicines which function as a trigger for or that can worsen RLS symptoms. Medicines like antidepressants, anti-nausea drugs, cold and allergy medications, antipsychotic drugs, and those containing antihistamines can cause restless legs syndrome.
Unusual Feelings Caused by RLS
If you have intense, long-lasting feelings caused by restless legs syndrome, you know they’re more than just annoying and painful. They may also cause embarrassment and shame, depending on when they happen, their severity, and what you must do to make the sensation subside.
Restless leg syndrome generates unusual feelings, mostly in the legs – but you could also have them in your arms, chest, or head. Many people describe RLS as:
- Mild to unbearable
- An irresistible urge to move or stretch
- Crawling sensation
- Aching feelings, most notably in the calf, thigh, or ankle
- A pins and needles sensation. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, this may be caused by an underlying problem, particularly nerve, spinal cord, or brain damage – either temporary or permanent.
- RLS can be extremely tiring. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 60%–80% of people with RLS call sleep disturbance their most upsetting indicator, which is why they seek treatment.
- According to one study, Mild electric-like shocks could be an indirect result of stress related to the overall RLS experience.
- Like worms crawling under the skin
- Pain may increase with inactivity
- Overall sensations can last for longer than an hour
- Your limbs may feel cold, sometimes due to restricted blood flow
- You feel like you can’t think, focus, or make everyday decisions
Diagnosis & Treatment
Regrettably, there is no specific test to identify restless legs syndrome. In this case, your healthcare provider will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms you describe and the criteria established by the International Restless Legs Study Group. Documenting your personal and family medical history is required, and a thorough physical and neurological exam. Blood tests may be used to rule out any other possible health problems associated with RLS. In some cases, you could be referred to an overnight sleep study to look for other sleep disorders.
RLS doesn’t have a cure, but the pain can be managed. Your healthcare provider may recommend diet and lifestyle changes, over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription medication, or ketamine therapy.
If you are among the millions of adults in the United States who struggle with restless legs syndrome (RLS), it is important to take steps to manage your symptoms and live a fulfilling life. While making small lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and engaging in light exercise may be helpful in managing RLS, it is also important to consider other treatment options.
One effective option for RLS is ketamine infusion therapy, a new treatment that has been shown to provide relief for people with chronic pain conditions. Contact us today to learn more!