Traditional medication can have devastating effects of restless legs syndrome symptoms. With a few changes in lifestyle and a little CBD, RLS patients can have a better quality of life.
- To begin, let’s do a quick questionnaire. It won’t be long, we promise!
- Do you feel an urge to constantly move your legs?
- Do you suffer from uncomfortable sensations in your legs?
- Does the pain get worse when you are sitting or standing?
- Does the pain intensify during the evening and night?
- Is the pain so severe that it prevents you from sleeping?
Well, if you answered yes to all of this questions, you might be suffering from restless leg syndrome. If you answered no, you should continue reading anyway. According to statistics from the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, it is estimated that approximately 8% of the population in the United States suffers from this condition. So, there is a big chance you might know someone that will answer yes to the questions above.
You might also think that feeling “leg pain” is not such a big deal.
Well, it is. And a big one. The Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation encourages patients to share their stories so that more people are aware of the condition and empathize with those who suffer from it. Thus, here are some testimonies:
“I started dreading every day because I knew that by evening I would have this burning feeling in my legs that just wouldn’t quit”. Bill, from Boston, Massachusetts
“Teachers taught I was lazy. My parents knew I was having trouble sleeping because I had terrible pain in my legs”. Joseph, Rochester, Minnesota.
Although there is no direct cause for restless leg syndrome, research has identified some patterns in RLS patients.
What causes restless leg syndrome?
Before RLS was a known condition, it was really difficult to diagnose or even consider “leg pain” as an illness at all. Lew Phelps, PR Executive and RLS Foundation Board Chair Member and RLS patient explains how people often tell patients that it’s all in their minds:
“I can understand why people would perceive restless leg syndrome to be something that is all in your head. When RLS symptoms come knocking at your door at night one of the things a lot of people do is get out of bed and start doing something that mentally distracts them. And that is actually helpful! But that doesn’t mean that the condition is caused by a mental process. It means that you can, in some cases, alleviate the symptoms by distracting yourself”.
Indeed, after years of research doctors have found that restless leg syndrome is a neurological disease that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. And this urge is often accompanied by discomfort and pain.
Here are some possible causes for restless leg syndrome:
- Genetic predisposition: It runs in families. It is very common to find more than one family member who suffers from restless leg syndrome. In 2007, researchers lead by Dr. David Rye identified the first gene associated with Restless Legs Syndrome.
- Iron deficiency and renal failure can cause RLS.
- Pregnant women mostly experience symptoms related to RLS. However, most of the times these symptoms disappear days after giving birth.
Restless leg syndrome symptoms
- Urge to move legs
- Rest induced
- Gets better with activity
- Symptoms become worse during the evening or night
- Sensation that is often hard to describe.
In 2003, doctors at the International Restless Leg Syndrome Study Group, developed the primary diagnostic criteria for this condition. They decided to present it in a very particular and interesting way: an acrostic with the word URGES, which means a strong desire or impulse (to move your legs).
Restless leg syndrome medications and the dark side of augmentation
Medication might be the first thing a doctor prescribes as a way to relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. The range of medication used in RLS is wide: benzodiazepines, opiates, anticonvulsants, Alpha2 agonists and, last but not least, dopamine agonists as well as dopaminergic agents. A pretty explosive cocktail, right?
Some of them relieve symptoms while others make you sleep, something that RLS patients crave at night. Nevertheless, they have terrible side effects. These are just a few of them:
- Benzodiazepines: drowsiness, confusion, dizziness, trembling, impaired coordination, vision problems, grogginess, feelings of depression.
- Opiates: Approximately 130 people in the United States die every die after an opioid overdose. Need more side effects after that number?
- Anticonvulsants: sedation and other cognitive impairments, tremor, gastrointestinal side effects, effects on body weight and metabolism and dose-related hepatic and hematologic effects.
- Alpha2 agonists: sedation, dry mouth and nasal mucosa, bradycardia, orthostatic hypotension, impotence, constipation, nausea and gastric upset.
Dopamine agonists and dopaminergic agents: This can be the best and worst thing for RLS patients. At the beginning, symptoms are improved. But, as time goes on, patients tend to suffer from augmentation, or worsening of symptoms over time. Furthermore, they can produce impulse control disorders, or ICD. Side effects are so severe they can even change behavior: gambling, compulsive shopping or hypersexuality.
While it may be true that medication, if used properly, often helps RLS patients, side effects can’t be ignored. This is why we are giving you 7 natural remedies and lifestyle tips to relieve restless leg syndrome symptoms without medication.
CBD Oil, your new best friend
“You’ve got a friend in me”. And it’s not Woody in Toy Story 4. Its CBD Oil! Anecdotal evidence is wide. People often talk about how CBD Oil is helping them sleep and how it improves their symptoms significantly. However, we like to stick to research. In 2017, a case study was published by researchers Thomas Megelin and Imad Ghorayeb.
The authors describe how 6 patients with restless leg syndrome alleviate their symptoms through cannabis treatment. Five patients reported a “complete disappearance of their symptoms”, while the other described a sensation of relief. Megelin and Ghorayeb report improvements in sleep in all patients after cannabidiol treatment.
Others have experienced relief with CBD Oil massage. Currently, spas all over the United States are using CBD in their treatments.
With all the side effects caused by traditional medication, CBD Oil shows great promise at treating restless leg syndrome. But, as usual with cannabis, we wish there was just as much medical research as anecdotal evidence.
Change your diet
No more caffeine
This is a great start if you want to lower your restless leg syndrome symptoms. Caffeine, present in coffee, tea and energy drinks is really bad for RLS. You might not feel it right away, but caffeine can trigger your symptoms. If you are a heavy coffee drinker, don’t cut it right off, since that can cause some anxiety, which can worsen your RLS symptoms. Start lowering your cups of coffee per day until you can live without it.
Cut down on alcohol
There is not direct link or evidence to state that alcohol triggers RLS symptoms. But patients describe that after consuming alcohol, mostly during the night, their symptoms are increased.
Try not to drink during week days and moderate your alcohol intake during the weekends. And specially don’t ever drink right before bed. That cup of wine before bedtime has to go.
Or, better yet, quit drinking alcohol. There really is no need for it.
No more cigarettes
Add this one to the “reasons to stop smoking” list. Tobacco is one of the worst triggers for RLS symptoms. A day when you mix caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes can be a really bad one for your legs.
Smoking reduces the body’s oxygenation capacity, which can cause, after a few years, lung, heart and circulatory issues.
Your legs and arms won’t get enough oxygen, which increases the discomfort.
Exercise, but do it wisely
The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation explains that exercise can both prevent and/or treat restless leg syndrome. “Regular exercisers are 3.3 times less likely to have RLS than non-exercisers. For those individuals living with RLS, one study suggests that regular exercise reduces severity of the symptoms by an average of 40 percent”.
They also give a few guidelines on how to exercise for people with RLS:
- Try a 30-60 minute routine during the day.
- Emphasize activities involving the legs.
- Exercise in moderation. If you push your body too hard, you will do the complete opposite of what you intend, and will be in more pain and discomfort.
Meditate and do Yoga
These two can also become your new best friends. Meditation and yoga relieve stress and anxiety, which are triggers for RLS symptoms.
They both help you sleep better, too.
Yoga includes a lot of stretching, which is really good for your legs if you suffer from RLS. And peace of mind, helps you feel calmer and more comfortable throughout the day. Win, win, win!
People who develop a disciplined meditation habit improve their quality of life immensely, get sick less often and report a significant improvement in their mood.
Hot and Cold
Hot baths are always a good idea for RLS patients. It relaxes the muscles and helps you rest after a long day. On the other hand, some people assure cold water works better for them. Similarly, you can alternate soaking your legs in warm water and cold water (or use heating pads and ice packs). Alternate between both, and see which one works best for you and your legs.
We sincerely hope you find what works best for you in order to find relief.