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 start this reading, let’s do a quick questionnaire. It won’t be long, we promise!
Do you feel an urging feeling to move your legs? Do you suffer from uncomfortable sensations in your legs?
Does the pain gets worse when you are sitting or standing?
Does the pain intensifies during evening and nights?
Is the pain so severe it prevents you from sleeping?
Well, if you answer yes to all of this questions, you might be suffering from restless leg syndrome. If you answer 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.
And you might also think that feeling “leg pain” is no such a big deal. Well, it is. And a big one. The Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation encourage patients to share their story so that more people are aware of the condition and sympathize 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 hard to diagnose or even consider “leg pain” as a disease at all. Lew Phelps, PR Executive and 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. Even more, 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 leaded by Dr. David Rye identified the first gene associated with Restless Legs Syndrome.
- Iron deficiency and renal failure also can cause RLS.
- Pregnant women mostly experience symptoms related to RLS. However, most of the times this symptoms disappear days after giving birth.
Restless leg syndrome symptoms
- Urge to move legs
- Rest induced
- Gets better with activity
- Evening or night worsening
- Sensation that is often hard to describe.
In 2003, doctors 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 restless leg syndrome. The range of medications 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 coctel, right?
Some of them relieve symptoms while other make you sleep, something that RLS patients crave to the night. Nevertheless, they have terrible side effects. Let’s start with 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 nasalmucosa, bradycardia, orthostatic hypotension, andimpotence, 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 during the course of time, patients tend to suffer from augmentation, or worsening of symptoms over time. Even more, 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 and lifestyle advice 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 improves their symptoms significantly. However, we like to stick to research. On 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 after cannabis treatment. Five patients reported a “complete disappearance of their symptoms”, while the other described the sensation as relief. Megelin and Ghorayeb reportar 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 during their treatments.
With all the side effects traditional medication have, CBD Oil shows great promise on treating restless leg syndrome. But, as usual with cannabis, we wished that 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. The reason is that it can give 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, and even more during night hours, increase symptoms. Try not to drink during week days and moderate your alcohol use during weekends. And specially don’t ever drink at night. That cup of wine before bedtime has to go.
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 mixing caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes can be a really bad idea for your legs.
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 day time.
- 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 with exercise.
Start meditation and/or yoga
This two can also become your new best friend. Meditation and yoga are used to relieve stress and anxiety, also triggers for RLS symptoms. They both help you sleep better, too. Even more, yoga includes a lot of stretching, which is really wood for your legs if you suffer from RLS. Peace of mind, helps you sleep and stretch your legs. Win, win, win!
Heat and cold
Hot baths are always a good idea for RLS
patients. It calms and helps legs rest after a long day. On the other hand,
other people say cold water works best. Similarly, you can alternate treating
your legs with a heating pad and ice. Alternate both sensations of hot and cold
and see which one works best for you and you legs.