Relieving Restless Leg Syndrome with Chiropractic Care

You’ve had a long day and crawl into bed at night, ready for a restful night’s sleep. However, after you get under the covers, you find yourself unable to stop moving your legs. You try to keep them still, but are overcome with a stirring urge to move them again. How can you fall asleep like this?

Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS, is a disorder that affects millions of Americans, keeping them frustrated and exhausted. While medicines are available as treatment for this condition, they aren’t always effective and may even worsen symptoms. As an alternative, you can choose an all-natural, drug-free option by visiting your chiropractor. Yes, that’s right. Your chiropractor can help relieve you of your nighttime movements and restore restful sleep once again.

What Is RLS?

Restless Leg Syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, is an unpleasant sensation in the legs that makes you feel like you want to move them. It is relieved by movement, either just a stationary movement like bouncing the legs in bed or by getting up and walking around. However, the symptoms will return when they become still again.

Symptoms occur late in the evening or at night, typically when you get in bed to sleep. However, they can also occur in situations where you’re still for long periods, like a long flight or even sitting for long periods at your desk at work. 

Approximately seven to ten percent of the American population suffers from RLS, with women being more prone to experience it. Over eighty percent of people with RLS also have periodic limb movement of sleep, or PLMS. PLMS involves involuntary leg movement, such as twitching or jerking movements, during sleep. Sometimes the arms are affected, as well. The movements occur every fifteen to forty seconds, sometimes lasting throughout the entire night.

RLS is classified both as a sleep disorder and a movement disorder; however, it is most accurately described as a neurological sensory disorder, because the symptoms are produced within the brain itself. 

What Are the Causes of RLS?

Unfortunately, there often are no known causes of RLS, although researchers believe it might be related to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which controls muscle movement. In some cases, there are known causes, such as:

  • Heredity: You may inherit RLS from a family member, particularly if they started experiencing symptoms before age 40.
  • Pregnancy: If you already have RLS, symptoms may worsen with the hormonal changes of pregnancy. Some women get RLS for the first time during pregnancy, especially in their last trimester; however, symptoms will usually disappear after the baby is born.

RLS can occur at any age, even in children, although it is more common in older individuals, with symptoms seeming to worsen with age. 

What Are the Risk Factors of RLS?

This condition isn’t related to any particular underlying medical problem, but it can accompany some conditions, such as:

  • Spinal cord conditions: Having had anesthesia to the spinal cord or lesions on the spinal cord as a result of injury are linked to RLS.
  • Parkinson’s disease: Taking certain medications associated with Parkinson’s disease, such as dopaminergic agonists, are related to increased risk of RLS.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Occurs when the nerves in the hands and feet become damaged, often due to chronic diseases such as diabetes or alcoholism.
  • Iron deficiency: Can cause or worsen RLS, even without anemia. Occurs with a history of bleeding, with heavy menstrual periods, or with repeated blood donations.
  • Kidney failure: Often associated with iron deficiency and anemia. If the kidneys aren’t functioning properly, then the stores of iron in the blood may drop, causing RLS.

How Do You Calm Down Restless Legs?

Sometimes doctors rely on prescriptions, such as dopamine medications, to fight RLS symptoms; but issues may occur while on this medication. For instance, the medication may become ineffective, or symptoms may appear earlier in the day and could involve your arms, as well. In turn, doctors prescribe another medication to deal with the problems. Prescription medicines come with risks and side effects, which are sometimes worse than the condition itself.

Most medications used to treat RLS are not recommended during pregnancy. Doctors may prescribe medicines during the last trimester anyway, if the symptoms are overwhelming. 

Some medications have been known to worsen RLS, such as antidepressants, some antipsychotic medications, some anti-nausea drugs, and certain cold and allergy medications. If you must take these medicines, doctors may add additional drugs to combat your RLS.

Rather than adding potentially harmful prescription medications to your daily regiment, there are other alternatives to treat restless leg syndrome. Sometimes making simple lifestyle changes can have a dramatic effect on RLS.

  • Try baths and massages. Soak in a warm bath and massage your legs before bed to relax the muscles.
  • Apply warm or cool packs. Your body may respond better to heat or cool or a mixture of them both, alternating between warm and cool.
  • Practice good sleep habits. Fatigue irritates RLS symptoms, so it’s best to follow good sleep hygiene practices. Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. Get at least seven hours of sleep each night. Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day, even on the weekends and holidays.
  • Exercise. Get moderate, regular exercise to keep your muscles active; however, avoid overdoing it or exercising late in the day.
  • Avoid caffeine. Cut out caffeine from your diet for a few weeks to see if this helps with your condition.
  • Visit your chiropractor. A chiropractor can address the nerves that are causing your RLS, potentially stopping all symptoms without the use of drugs or medications of any kind.

How Can Chiropractic Care Help With RLS?

RLS can be a difficult condition to deal with. Not only does it become increasingly frustrating at night, but you’ll feel the effects in the morning with fatigue that interferes with your daily activities. 

Chiropractors can help relieve RLS symptoms. The approach they take involves normalizing the nervous system’s ability to function. When health is restored to your nervous system, then your nervous system can restore health to the rest of your body, enabling you to sleep peacefully once again.

Chiropractic adjustments can correct misalignments of the spine, which interfere with the nerves’ ability to communicate with the brain and the rest of the body. If these signals are not received properly, it can lead to issues with the muscles, such as those in the legs. 

Correcting misalignments in the vertebrates can reduce pressure on important nerves, like those that reach the thighs and calves. This correction can create a lasting improvement at the source of the problem. Chiropractic care works toward restoring health at its origin, rather than covering up symptoms with drugs. 

Dr. Tim Swift proudly serves San Clemente, San Juan, Dana Point, and the surrounding areas of Orange County, California.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for in-person advice or care from a medical professional.

Dr. Tim Swift

Dr. Tim Swift

Dr. Tim Swift combines his chiropractic expertise with regenerative medicine to bring a passion for restoring health, mobility, and vitality to help his community feel and function better.

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