Restless Leg Syndrome affects millions of Americans daily. The symptoms can be annoying to debilitating. The cause of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) can be hard to pin down.
I personally believe that RLS can be caused by the muscles in the hips and legs being chronically tight and chronically deconditioned. As I have mentioned in previous articles, when a muscle gets tight and irritated it can fall into a pattern of spasm and inflammation and form trigger points. These trigger points can stay around for months if not years.
If let go long term, these tight and irritated muscles with trigger points can cause pain, tingling, numbness, muscle spasm, uncontrolled twitches, and other symptoms, mostly issues associated with RLS.
I have found that the stretching and strengthening of affected muscles helps to decrease these issues whether you have been diagnosed with RLS or not. And that is what is found in most studies concerning RLS and exercise.
In one study that is mentioned in the following slide show, RLS symptoms were reduced over a 12 week period just through exercise alone.
In another study listed in the slide show, exercise alone was shown to reduce periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). This is when your legs twitch throughout the night without you controlling the movement.
It would seem that activating the leg muscles, using the muscles and pumping blood through them and strengthening them up and loosening them up will decrease the symptoms associated with RLS.
RLS is a disease process affecting the muscles and nervous system. When you exercise you are training your musculo-skeletal and nervous systems. Exercise will help them feel better and function better. Exercise will make the muscles more responsive, more reflexive, and basically help them to function the way they were designed to.
It makes sense that if you don’t exercise and sit a lot then the muscles are going to get tighter and more irritated over time. This irritation can take many forms. One of the forms can be RLS. Another form this irritation can take is osteo-arthritis or stenosis. When the muscles get tight and irritated they will pull on the joints and cause them to move differently then how they were designed to move. This will put more stress on the joint over time and cause it to wear out prematurely. This eventually can result in osteo-arthritis, degenerative disc disease, stenosis, or other forms of degeneration in your joints.
RLS can be a side effect to other disease processes, but regardless of the cause, exercise will help to decrease the symptoms of RLS.
There are medications that you can take for RLS, but studies show that exercise can be as effective, if not more effective, than medications for controlling RLS. My feeling is that you never know what type of side effects you are going to get from the long list of side effects with any medication. So why not try to take care of a problem without medication? It can be easier on your body then the medication and can work better. The only issue is exercise takes work. Taking a pill does not.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many times when you should and need to take a medication. And you might already be on a medication for RLS, or might have to go on a medication to control the symptoms associated with RLS. Being on the medication can make exercising more easy and less painful. This can be important because the medication can be helpful in decreasing your symptoms enough to allow you to get into an exercise program which will then decrease your symptoms even farther.
Exercising is not passive, and not something that someone else can do to you or for you. Unlike medications, which most people believe you just take the medication and then the problem will magically go away. This does not happen. Most medications have long lists of serious side effects. For some patients, the side effects of a medication can be worse than the symptoms from the disease itself. I have been seeing more and more information out there about how to treat side effects from medications. Another component of medication is that many times the medications will not fix the issue, it will only mask it.
This is true with low back pain. Low back pain is a mostly muscular issue. There are medications to treat low back pain, but mostly they are pain medications, or anti-inflammatories. These will make the sufferer more comfortable, but it will not fix the problem, it will only mask it. This can allow the patient to be more comfortable which can help with the healing process and is very important. But not as important as getting the muscle loose and balanced out and then strengthening it up.
The following article and slideshow contains some helpful information on what RLS is and how to decrease the symptoms associated with it. It also contains some recommendations for how to exercise and which stretches are effective for this. The Pain Free Lifestyle exercise program incorporates all of the information in this section and puts it into easy to follow steps.
The medication for treating RLS can help out, and can help to ease the symptoms to allow you to get into exercise. But I feel the best way to control RLS is by exercising, but doing the right exercises and the right stretches. Remember, train smarter, not harder. And that, is the Pain Free Way.