Natural Remedies for Restless Legs

Monday Dec 17, 2012 | BY |
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restless legsIf restless legs are keeping you up at night, try these natural remedies.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that restless legs syndrome affects about 12 million or more Americans. The cause is usually unknown, but those who suffer from it know that it can lead to insomnia, which can then cause other health problems like overeating and daytime grogginess.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go on a steady diet of pain relievers to calm your legs and get some rest. Below are some natural solutions that should help you say goodbye to restless legs for good.

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?
According to the Mayo Clinic, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which the legs feel extremely uncomfortable, usually in the evenings when you’re sitting or lying down. Those who have it describe the feeling as creeping, pulling, itching, tingling, burning, aching, or electric shocks. The feeling compels you to get up and move around, and can make it difficult to relax for very long. When you do start moving, typically the feeling goes away.

RLS usually starts early in life—for some, even in childhood—and reportedly gets worse as you age. It not only interferes with sleep, but can make traveling difficult. How bad the syndrome is usually depends on how much it disrupts your daily life. As it interferes with sleep, it can cause other issues like depression, mood swings, overeating, and a reduced immune system. Your partner may also be sporting some bruises.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes restless legs, but they know that it runs in families, and may also be linked to other health problems like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, and iron deficiency. Women who are pregnant may also experience it. One theory is that RLS is related to an imbalance of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Some medications can also increase risk, including anti-nausea, anti-seizure, and antipsychotic drugs.

Natural Solutions for RLS
If you have RLS, you probably already know it. Unfortunately, there is no single test for it, so it’s usually diagnosed through a review of your personal and family medical history. If you feel other conditions may be contributing to your RLS, like diabetes or an iron deficiency, check with your doctor or dietician. Otherwise, try some of these solutions and see if they help.

  • Exercise: Sometimes RLS is simply a response to a sedentary lifestyle, or even just a day or two of missed exercise. Get back into a regular routine of daily walks, runs, or other workouts, and see if your legs relax.
  • Stretch: Tight muscles can also lead to nighttime RLS. Try an easy yoga routine or a simple series of stretches before bed to loosen up. Focus on calves, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles.
  • Take a warm bath: Add some Epsom salts to help ease muscle pain.
  • Watch your caffeine: Too much caffeine can lead to RLS in some people. Try cutting back to see if your condition improves. Be careful as well of other stimulating herbs and teas.
  • Check your nutrient levels: Deficiencies in iron, folate, or magnesium can lead to RLS. Check with your dietician, or get a blood test to check your levels. Particularly during pregnancy, you may not be getting enough B vitamins like folate.
  • Massage: A 2007 study found that massage that targets the lower body can help reduce RLS for several weeks.
  • Acupuncture: Studies also indicate that acupuncture can be effective.
  • Parsley tea: Sweetened with a little bit of honey or lemon, try it three times a day. It’s reputed to help increase body levels of iron and vitamin C, which may, in turn, reduce symptoms of RLS.
  • Lavender oil: Try a little on the soles of your feet before bed. It’s a relaxing herb and may help your legs calm down.
  • Valerian: Take this at night to help you sleep better.
  • Vitamin E: Known to ease leg cramps, this vitamin may help, particularly if you’re not getting enough in your daily diet.
  • St. John’s wort: Take it as a supplement or as a tea to help promote sleep and relaxation.
  • Rooibos tea: It has anti-spasmodic activity, and may help relieve leg cramps and RLS. It also has a reputation for encouraging restful sleep.

Homeopathic Remedies
In addition to lifestyle changes, vitamins, and herbs, there are some homeopathic remedies you may want to try.

  • Aconite: If you are prone to anxiety, panic attacks, or other nervous issues, aconite can help you relax and may also subdue your RLS.
  • Arsenicum: This remedy is particularly helpful in individuals who may have muscle weakness or heaviness, or those who feel cold much of the day and night.
  • Causticum: Does your RLS include burning and aching? Try this treatment, especially if you experience muscle soreness much of the time.
  • Rhus tox: Use this remedy if you are often restless, and find it difficult to sit still.
  • Zincum met.: If your RLS is more than a minor irritant, and tends to continue night after night, try this remedy. It’s also good for those who have sudden jerks and movements while asleep.

Do you have other natural remedies for RLS? Please share your ideas!

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Sources
M. Russell. “Massage therapy and restless legs syndrome.” Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2007 11(2): 146-150.

Wu YH, Sun CL, Wu D, Huang YY, Chi CM. “Observation on therapeutic effect of acupuncture on restless legs syndrome.” Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion 2008 28(1):27-9.

Kevin Gianni

Kevin Gianni is a health author, activist and blogger. He started seriously researching personal and preventative natural health therapies in 2002 when he was struck with the reality that cancer ran deep in his family and if he didn’t change the way he was living — he might go down that same path. Since then, he’s written and edited 6 books on the subject of natural health, diet and fitness. During this time, he’s constantly been humbled by what experts claim they know and what actually is true. This has led him to experiment with many diets and protocols — including vegan, raw food, fasting, medical treatments and more — to find out what is myth and what really works in the real world.

Kevin has also traveled around the world searching for the best protocols, foods, medicines and clinics around and bringing them to the readers of his blog RenegadeHealth.com — which is one of the most widely read natural health blogs in the world with hundreds of thousands of visitors a month from over 150 countries around the world.

5 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Matthew Knoefler says:

    In the DVD The Toxic Gourmet, the author mentioned his wife’s RLS. After doing some research they decided to completely remove excitotoxins from their diets. His wife’s RLS went away as well. remember the food manufacturers are very sneaky, they hide these excitotoxins under many names. If it comes in a package or if you don’t prepare it yourself be very wary. blessings

  2. Ray says:

    just wanted to have medical blood test done to determin if I’m on right track few days pass I get a call
    your potassium is high you need to go on diet I do but after 2 weeks I’m getting Resstless legs it fill
    like bugs crawling in my legs and weak, to make the story short I start to eat up to 6 organic raw eggs in few days
    I got my energy starting to come back and no longer have resstless legs I was so happy, I was going to the dog believe me.

  3. Hedge Wife says:

    Thank you for this article. I have RLS and I have found that valerian root capsules, deep tissue massage on my legs and lavender in oil or infusion form help the best.

  4. Robin says:

    Antidepressants can cause it, make it worse. Prescription nausea meds. make it worse–they are weak antipsychotics. Antipsychotics make it worse. Antihistamines make it worse. The list of culprit meds. goes on!

    Sugar, caffeine make it worse.

    There is a company doing pioneering work with infrared light, I think.

    In reference to iron levels, it is important to have FERRITIN levels tested, have a level of at least 50, which is not the lowest normal (Most labs normal ranges start at 25–not high enough for RLS!). Theory is that stored iron may be an issue with dopamine transport in brain.

    Another theory focuses on inflammation! Makes sense! Take care of your gut! RLS has been linked to IBS….

    Have had this since childhood, along with other sleep disorders, am now on painkillers, trying to get off of them! Looking for other choices for severe RLS…..

  5. Robin says:

    OOOOOOPS! I forgot my best weapon so far, one that sleep neurologists won’t admit helps……Drum roll…..

    Magnesium! It is a muslce relaxant. Magnesium glycinate is well absorbed, does not cause diarrhea! I use it for RLS and also for esophageal spasms! Can take oral form. There is also a magnesium oil–topical. Great stuff! Epsom salts help–if you enjoy hot baths.

    I take extra Vit. D, Vit. C, folate, other anti-oxidants, omega-3. Depends on budget.

    Calcium is an excitoxin, can make RLS worse–I don’t touch it as it may cause hardening of arteries….

    Don’t let any MD put you on a drug like Klonopin–same class as Valium, Xanax. Very addictive over years, depletes body of important nutrients, hard to get off of!

    Lastly: RLS during sleep is actually called Periodic Leg Movement Disorder and can be documented with a sleep study. Or bed partner observation. RLS occurs while awake, no test for it, very subjective diagnosis…

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