What Can I Do For My Restless Legs?

Those of you who have rest­less legs know what I’m talk­ing about. The exper­i­ence of rest­less legs syn­drome began for me in the middle of high school, most often when I went to the movies or when at the theatre. I would begin to feel I needed to change my pos­i­tion in the seat, cross­ing and uncross­ing my legs. The feel­ing would worsen the longer I was sit­ting; my legs would actu­ally jump and finally I would have to get up to stretch to stop the feel­ing. Often my legs would ache sim­ul­tan­eously. For myself, I was lucky enough that the sen­sa­tion stopped when I went to bed. However, not every­one is so lucky.

There is not one defin­it­ive cause asso­ci­ated with rest­less legs syn­drome. However, there are many hypo­theses. A very com­mon source for rest­less legs is nutri­tion­al.

Magnesium deficiency

North American soci­ety is obsessed with get­ting the right amount of cal­ci­um in the diet, but what about calcium’s part­ner-in-crime mag­nesi­um? The second most abund­ant intra­cel­lu­lar ion, mag­nesi­um defi­ciency is implic­ated in osteo­poros­is, angina, muscle cramp­ing, and muscle rigid­ity.

Did you know…

Magnesium is often pre­scribed after heart attacks to pre­vent a recur­rent epis­ode (one heart attack can dam­age the heart muscle sig­ni­fic­antly, increas­ing risk for sub­sequent heart attacks. Magnesium sup­ports the con­tractil­ity of the heart while pre­vent­ing it from hav­ing fur­ther fib­ril­la­tions (flut­ter­ing).

Epsom salts are mag­nesi­um salts, so when you are asked to have an epsom salt bath after a mas­sage it is to get mag­nesi­um into your muscles to help them relax from a state of con­trac­tion (cal­ci­um is a con­tract­ile ion in muscle, its oppos­i­tion)

Hyperactivity of the nervous system

Another poten­tial cause for rest­less leg syn­drome is an over­activ­ity of the nervous sys­tem. Conventionally, anti-anxi­ety med­ic­a­tions can be pre­scribed to relieve rest­less legs. To calm the nervous sys­tem, I turn to…

Massage therapy

Massage has been known to increase blood flow in the legs and to encour­age nervous sys­tem relax­a­tion as well as the break­down of mus­cu­lar ten­sion.

Acupuncture

While ini­tial stud­ies were incon­clus­ive, acu­punc­ture and its abil­ity to sup­port the nervous sys­tem and improve pain and ten­sion from muscle cramp­ing may still be effect­ive.

GABA

Also known as gamma-Aminobutyric acid, GABA is an inhib­it­ory neur­o­trans­mit­ter that is respons­ible for calm­ing of the nervous sys­tem. Anti-anxi­ety med­ic­a­tions actu­ally work by bind­ing to GABA recept­ors in the nervous sys­tem and mim­ic GABA, thereby calm­ing the nervous sys­tem. GABA can actu­ally be taken all on its own to have the same effects.

Passion flower (Passiflora incarnatus)

A herb that is calm­ing even in tea form, and known for sed­at­ing and calm­ing effects and its abil­ity to calm an over­act­ive nervous sys­tem.

While we do not yet know the causes, rest­less legs do not have to leave you in agony. Trial and error is the very indi­vidu­al way of find­ing the cause for your rest­less legs.

References

Cui Y, Wang Y, Liu Z. Acupuncture for Restless Legs Syndrome.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD006457. Review.

Mitchell UH. Non-drug Related Aspects of Treating Ekbom Disease, Formerly Known as Restless Legs Syndrome.
Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2011;7:251 – 7. Epub 2011 May 6.

Rude RK, Singer FR, Gruber HE. Skeletal and Hormonal Effects of Magnesium Deficiency.
J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Apr;28(2):131 – 41.

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