Restless Leg Syndrome: Yeah it's real
April 6, 2013 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Help me figure out what to do about my rapidly degrading case of restless leg syndrome.

I'm a 23-year-old guy. Everyone in my family has always had the "kicky legs", as we call them. For me it's just an urge to jiggle every now and then when I'm sitting. Recently (about the last two months), it's gotten much, much worse. My legs feel tight, tingly, and sometimes they burn. I can't sit down for long periods, I pace like crazy, and it's even interfered with my sleep a couple of nights (I took some nyquil and slept fine).

I don't really want to take Requip, as I have a family history of mental illness and I don't want to mess with my dopamine levels. I will if I have to, but are there other approaches? What are my options? What's worked for you guys?
posted by nickhb to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Magnesium supplements did it for my mother-in-law. If you see an O.D., s/he may work with you on a nutritional deficiency approach first. If you want to try that and other things and avoid medication if possible, just tell the doctor. Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have found Epsom salt baths to help with mine.
posted by kitarra at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2013

Do you get a lot of exercise? Are you really worn out at night? I only get it at night when I'm trying to fall asleep but the more tired I am the less it bothers me.
posted by cherrybounce at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2013

Iron, magnesium, Vitamin B, exercise 1 hour before sleeping, stretching, hot pack, cold pack have all been reported to help different people.
Here is an article
Iron helped me - but have a blood test first.
posted by SyraCarol at 3:38 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband found a great doctor for RLS. He wrote him a few different prescriptions and said, try them out, see what works, if you find something that's helpful, I'll write you a prescription for more. He found that klonopin was the most effective.
posted by kat518 at 3:45 PM on April 6, 2013

Magnesium, hot baths, heating pad on the bed, laying down instead of sitting, investigating current meds to see if any increase symptoms (some anti-depressants do for me), knowing you are not the only one!
posted by tamitang at 3:47 PM on April 6, 2013

Magnesium supplements really help for me, for which this is mainly a form of insomnia. For when I really can't sleep, the doc prescribed klonopin, which works wonders for me, but of course probably shouldn't be used continuously.
posted by u2604ab at 3:48 PM on April 6, 2013

Oh my, this is real! Exercise helped me.
posted by fifilaru at 4:04 PM on April 6, 2013

My dad has it. Some medication and he's fine. But when doesn't take it, he has to sleep on the couch.
posted by signondiego at 4:15 PM on April 6, 2013

IANAD but I recognise the phenomenon, and I find that the more exercise I get the less problematic this is.

I have never had really bad restless legs, though - not enough to keep me awake, for example - so what do I know.
posted by tel3path at 4:26 PM on April 6, 2013

My son went through a period where his restless legs had him waking up the house, banging into the walls in his sleep. I had him drink club soda with quinine daily for awhile and took all caffeine away from him. He and I also reduced his sugar intake. All of this helped both the restless legs and his acne.

Yours sounds much more serious. I would talk to a doctor, if I were you, as the pain during the day sounds troubling.
posted by myselfasme at 4:37 PM on April 6, 2013

Low levels of iron (even if you don't meet the criteria for anemia) are associated with RLS. It might be worthwhile to check your hemoglobin and serum ferritin levels. (Just taking iron isn't a good idea, especially if you are not someone who menstruates.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 4:46 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My husband found something obscure on the internet about the artificial sweetener Splenda causing restless legs, so he cut out all Splenda use, and he says he has no more restless leg problems. YMMV. Obviously there are other causes of restless legs... but this is what seemed to work for him.
posted by molasses at 4:47 PM on April 6, 2013

Yes, RLS is a real thing.

Low iron can cause restless legs.

Magnesium tablets also help.
posted by Year of meteors at 4:56 PM on April 6, 2013

It might be connected to sleep apnea:

posted by paphun123 at 5:25 PM on April 6, 2013

Here's a search:
posted by paphun123 at 5:26 PM on April 6, 2013

When I get restless legs I drink tonic water - a doctor told me quinine helps. Just keep one of those stubby bottles in the fridge if you're not otherwise inclined to have it around. Flat tonic water is pretty gross but it seems to work for me, so it's worth it.
posted by smartyboots at 6:13 PM on April 6, 2013

I have RLS. Um, yes, it's absolutely real. My symptoms include: tingling/crawling & tightness sensations in lower legs, experienced in a mild form during the day (at my desk), but mainly while lying in bed prior to sleep. So far it doesn't interfere with my sleep and as far as I know, I don't have periodic limb movement disorder. It's strange how my symptoms can really vary so much--for several days they'll be pretty bad, and then they'll mostly go away for a week or two.

It sucks, but laying off all caffeine and (especially) alcohol really seems to make a difference. Excercise seems like it might help a little bit. Unfortunately, that's all I've found that helps. Haven't tried any medications for it.
posted by bennett being thrown at 6:50 PM on April 6, 2013

My boyfriend has found that yoga (particularly poses that focus on the legs and spine) as well as deep stretching prior to bed using a yoga strap have been helpful for him.
posted by jus7brea7he at 7:15 PM on April 6, 2013

My workmate has RLS and used to take a prescription medication for it, but has found that cutting out gluten helps her after seeing a chiropractor about it (I know, I know). I just thought I'd throw it out there.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:35 PM on April 6, 2013

Iron and b vitamins essentially cured mine, though it took a few years to really get rid of it (and, consequently, I stopped being anemic for the first time).

Other people are helped by magnesium, potassium, and calcium. The tightness you describe is more consistent with needing magnesium, calcium and potassium.
posted by Michele in California at 7:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

My legs did that from age 8-22. "Growing pains," they said. Somebody suggested orthotic shoe inserts. It went away.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 11:26 PM on April 6, 2013

Chiming in to say, my mother was helped in this greatly by taking a potassium supplement.
posted by batonthefueltank at 12:50 AM on April 7, 2013

Requip (and other Parkinson's type treatments) are not the only pharmaceuticals for RLS. Gabapentin and benzodiazepines are also used, in addition to the drugs mentioned here. Obviously, your doctor is the one who can best assess your needs, including your concerns about treatments affecting your mental health.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:58 AM on April 7, 2013

Some people might not realize that long-term use of acid-reducers like prilosec OTC can inhibit the normal absorption of iron. I developed anemia and restless legs after being on prilosec for several years (with my doctor's ok). I am now at a point where I take a prilosec every other day, and on the days I take it I make sure to take an iron pill plus a multi-vitamin. Since I started doing this, I haven't had an issue with restless legs.
posted by Brody's chum at 9:22 AM on April 7, 2013

I have infrequent RLS at bedtime and Tylenol has always helped me. Good luck to you. I understand how uncomfortable and disturbing this is.
posted by michellenoel at 9:46 AM on April 7, 2013

As a guy, you may be reluctant to take this advice. But I know some RLS sufferers find that keeping their legs (especially the calves) clean shaven helps a lot. Having sheets, blankets, pajama legs, etc. brushing against leg hairs can aggravate RLS symptoms.
posted by marsha56 at 6:46 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Propanolol and lorazepam have helped my anti-psychotic induced akathisia, which is a similar sensation.
posted by lettuchi at 9:57 PM on April 7, 2013

As a longtime sufferer of RLS, I can say that I've tried many of these treatments (especially the over-the-counter ones) to no avail. I think a big placebo effect exists here. Exercise often makes symptoms worse for me, and I get RLS in my arms and hands too.

Strange as it may sound, marsha56's advice about shaving your legs might be the best idea here. If things get bad enough again I might try that.
posted by Camofrog at 12:18 AM on August 17, 2013

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