The 10 guidelines for coping with restless legs syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a frequent and chronic disorder. It consists of an unstoppable urge to move the legs associated with unpleasant sensations, not painful, often described as tingling, or punctures, for example. These are exacerbated by rest, while movement produces a sense of relief. The etiology of this disorder is unknown, although cerebral iron insufficiency and alterations in the neurotransmission of dopamine are considered as possible causes.

According to the Spanish Association of Restless Legs Syndrome (AESPI), approximately 80% of people with this condition perform periodic movements of the extremities during sleep. It is a shaking that occurs with a frequency of 20 to 30 seconds during the night and, usually, causing continuous interruptions of sleep.

One of the biggest complaints of the SPI patients is how their quality of life is reduced, in the face of chronic sleep deprivation, causing fatigue, insomnia many times, and even a decrease in the ability to concentrate during the day, besides affecting to your state of mind.


In an interview with Infosalus, Dr. Pilar Rubio, of the Clinical Neurophysiology Service of the Universitari i Politècnic La Fe Hospital in Valencia, points out that the SPI can be presented at any age, both in childhood and in adulthood; although it warns that it predominates as of the third or fourth decade of life, and its frequency increases with increasing age.

“The disorder can occur spontaneously or be associated with other pathologies among which include iron deficiency or end-stage renal failure. It has also been linked to processes such as diabetes mellitus, rheumatological disorders, as well as neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease. In gastrointestinal conditions such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, this association has also been described, “adds the expert.

In turn, it indicates that the symptoms of restless legs can be triggered by the use of some drugs such as antidepressants. In addition, during pregnancy, and especially during the last months, up to 20% of women develop SPI. After delivery, the symptoms often disappear. However, there is a clear relationship between the number of pregnancies and the chances of developing chronic RLS.

On the other hand, Rubio states that it is a disorder that can appear spontaneously, although 40% of patients have a positive family history of restless legs, “that is to say, it has a hereditary factor, being the pattern of autosomal dominant inheritance”.

The diagnosis is made with an adequate clinical history, adds the specialist. No special studies are required, unless an association to other sleep disorders is suspected, such as periodic leg movements. “In that case the diagnosis would be made with polysomnogram,” he adds.

About the treatment, the expert of the Clinical Neurophysiology team of the Hospital La Fe of Valencia points out that it is symptomatic and personalized. “Currently a wide range of drugs is available from iron associated with vitamin C, dopaminergic drugs, gabapentin, benzodiazepines, among others that improve symptoms,” he says.


Therefore, from the AESPI advise to cope with the disease, apart from pharmacological treatment:

1 .- Maintain regular sleep schedules, going to bed and getting up at the same time, and being able to have a quiet and comfortable sleep environment.

2 .- Avoid the consumption of exciting substances, caffeine type, and alcohol, and especially in the evening.

3 .- Perform gentle exercise, not strenuous, in the afternoon as stretching, or relaxation, for example, as well as gentle massage in the legs associated with hot-cold baths.

4. -Avoid certain drugs that can worsen symptoms (antihistamines, some sedatives that block dopamine, and certain antidepressants)

5 .- Speak openly about the SPI with family and friends.

6 .- Do not fight against the painting. If you try to suppress the need to move, your symptoms may get worse. A good exercise program can help the body cope better with the disease. Regular exercise can maintain flexibility, promote good posture, maintain strong muscles and nimble joints.

7 .- Write a dream diary. Keep a record of medications and strategies that help or alleviate your battle with RLS and share it with your doctor.

8 .- Get taller. You may find it more comfortable if you elevate the desk or shelves to a height that allows you to stand while you work or read.

9 .- Occupy the mind. If you keep it active, the symptoms of RLS may decrease.

10 .- Start and end the day with stretching. Complementary therapies can help physically and emotionally with RLS. Such as yoga, tai chi, music therapy and acupuncture. In fact, some are offered within the process of rehabilitation of the SPI.

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