Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs due to an uncomfortable sensation throughout them. This sensation usually comes in the evening or during the night when you’re resting. If you’ve experienced this, you probably know that moving your legs, walking, stretching, bouncing, etc. eases the uncomfortable sensation, but it often returns as soon as you stop moving.
The sensation usually begins after you’ve been sitting down or lying down for an extended period of time, when your body settles into rest and then suddenly you feel like you have to move. Some people describe the sensation as crawling, creeping, pulling, throbbing, aching, itching, and electric. It seems that each person perceives it a little differently. One thing they have in common though, is that it’s not just a skin-deep sensation, but felt deep within the limbs. You may also deal with periodic limb movement when you’re sleeping such as twitching and kicking. Some people, more rarely, experience these same sensations in the arms as well.
There aren’t any known specific causes of RLS, however researchers believe the condition is caused by an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine which is responsible for sending messages to control muscle movement. RLS can be considered hereditary depending on when the condition starts. If it starts before 40, it is often considered hereditary in nature. RLS can also show up in women who’re experiencing hormonal changes during pregnancy, but most often symptoms generally resolve after the baby is delivered. Women who already have RLS can expect their symptoms to worsen during pregnancy.
Treatment often starts with eliminating triggers that may be contributing to symptoms, including nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, extreme temperatures, refined sugar, stress, and even antihistamines. The next step is to treat any underlying medical conditions that can be contributing to your RLS. Conditions such as anemia, diabetes, hormonal imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, kidney disease, thyroid disease, varicose veins, and Parkinson’s disease should all be looked at when pursuing treatment. Other forms of treatment include physical therapy, self-care practices such as stretching, exercises, and relaxation techniques, and of course massage therapy.
Sports Massage therapy can help deal with the symptoms of RLS for a few different reasons. Stress often contributes to an increase in RLS symptoms, so by decreasing this stress, as massage does, the strength and frequency of symptoms often decreases. Sports Massage also provides a level of stimulation to the cerebral cortex and activates the thalamus, both of which seem to play a role in the severity and frequency of RLS. While massage can help quickly, making it a regular part of your life will work to decrease the symptoms long-term.
Restless leg syndrome can be a nuisance in minor cases and debilitating in more severe cases.