What is Restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition that compels leg movement at rest, is most prevalent in pregnancy, end-stage renal disease, iron-deficiency anemia, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and is familial in up to two-thirds of those affected. It has been described as “your head wants to go to sleep but your legs want to get up and dance!”
I find the symptoms of RLS more commonly being reported at the clinic over the last few years and I find people either respond profoundly positive to initial treatment, or it becomes a tricky condition to deal with. Like most health complaints that get presented to me, its resolution completely relies on ascertaining the underlining cause and with RLS it may not always be obvious.
What’s the underlining cause?
If there is also muscle cramps reported I suspect a magnesium deficiency and supplement with adequate oral doses of magnesium. Blood test for magnesium deficiency is generally poor unless you test for Red blood cell magnesium levels which is the proper test to get - plasma magnesium doesn’t reflect cellular magnesium. Along with oral supplementation –Epsom salts baths – 3 cups in basin added to full bath, soak for 20 mins, repeat twice weekly. You get the benefit of the Sulphur component as well as the magnesium component this way
RLS seems to be more of a central nervous system problem, with the relaxation that should happen at night or during sleep misfiring and just not happening, so its technically a movement disorder – and there is a link with anaemia or Iron deficiency and also circulation, so in other words there is poor oxygen tension in the peripheral tissues. Generally people have had these things assessed – bloods tests etc so I treat accordingly.
If there is iron deficiency Anaemia – What’s the cause? - where is one loosing blood? – address the cause. Is it menstrual? Internal bleed? Poor dietary intake? Poor absorption? etc. When rectifying iron deficiency due to low intake always consider Heam iron is much better than non heam iron – non heam is poorly bio available and is the form found in supplements generally – best bioavailable source is rare lambs liver, rare red meat – all contain heam iron. For vegetarians consult a Nutritionist
Nervous system herbs good for alleviating the symptoms of RLS. I always formulate a medicine here using a number of key herbal medicines for greatest effect. The best Nervine tonics are St Johns Wort, Skull Cap, Valariana, Humulus and Passiflora. For more severe cases I also use muscle relaxants – verbena and Cimicifuga and cramp bark.
For more persistent cases I use anti-tremor herbs in low dose through out the day. I also add Dopaminergic herbs to the formula, specifically where there is a hormonal component, these include Vitex agnus castus and Paeonia lactiflora. Dopamine agonists have shown beneficial in the treatment protocol for RLS, however I would be slow to consider the pharmaceutical ones due to the bizarre and severe side effects, for example take the drugs Requip and Mirapexin.
These side effects are reportedly a class-wide effect, which impact all the drugs belonging to the non-ergoline dopamine agonist class of drugs. Specifically, the insert reads:
“Impulse control symptoms, including compulsive behaviors such as pathological gambling and hypersexuality, have been reported in patients treated with these dopaminergic agents.”Another RLS drug, Mirapex (which is also used to treat Parkinson’s disease), has reported similar symptoms. The Mirapex package insert reads:
“Patients taking certain medicines to treat Parkinson’s disease or RLS, including Mirapex . . . have reported problems with gambling, compulsive eating, and increased sex drive.”
A 2005 study published in the Archives of Neurology also found that dozens of patients using Mirapex or similar drugs developed serious gambling addictions.
I use the term Nutraceutical to encompass vitamin and mineral supplements. Generally I consul people on how to obtain all these through diet but in more persistent cases of RLS I may recommend Salts and electrolytes and possibly a rutin supplement. Maybe one or two other suggestion on a case specific basis
Ensure your drinking enough water. Ensure you’re getting enough Exercise. Therapeutic Massage may be of benefit in the short term. Alternating hot and cold water shower to stimulate circulation.
Obviously good quality sleep is essential for any nervous system disorder, so see other articles on this site for recommendations here.
Last but not least remove all sources of artificial sweetener Aspartame from diet!!!
For more information, and to obtain Herbal Medicines contact the clinic on 0719142940