Restless leg syndrome (RLS, Wittmaack-Ekbom's syndrome, or sometimes referred to as Nocturnal myoclonus) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable while you're sitting or lying down. It makes you feel like getting up and moving around. When you do so, the unpleasant feeling of restless leg syndrome temporarily goes away. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder.
People usually define RLS symptoms as unpleasant sensations in their calves, thighs, feet or arms. People usually don’t describe the condition as numbness or muscle cramps.
Some experts believe RLS and periodic limb movement disorder are strongly associated with ADHD in some children. Both conditions are hereditary and dopamine is believed to be involved. Many types of medication for the treatment of both conditions affect dopamine levels in the brain.
Common characteristics of RLS signs and symptoms include:
- Starts during inactivity. The sensation typically begins while you're lying down or sitting for an extended period of time, such as in a car, airplane or movie theater.
- Relief by movement. The sensation of RLS lessens if you get up and move. People combat the sensation of restless leg in a number of ways — by stretching, jiggling their legs, pacing the floor, exercising or walking. This compelling desire to move is what gives restless leg syndrome its name.
- Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms typically are less bothersome during the day and are felt primarily at night.
Some people with restless leg syndrome never seek medical attention because they worry that their symptoms are too difficult to describe or won't be taken seriously. Some doctors wrongly attribute symptoms to nervousness, stress, insomnia or muscle cramps. RLS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. In many people the condition it is not diagnosed until 10-20 years after symptoms begin. Once correctly diagnosed, RLS can often be treated successfully.
Coping skills that may help you fight RLS includes:
- Begin and end your day with stretching exercises.
- Soaking in a warm bath and massaging your legs can relax your muscles.
- Try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga.