RLS is a neurological disorder that affects about 10% of the adult population. It involves an involuntary and uncontrollable urge to move your legs and involves unpleasant sensations and throbbing in the legs that causes the person to have difficulty falling and staying asleep which affects all parts of their daytime functioning. This urge to move happens mostly at night or during long periods of stillness or relaxation.
In the majority of cases the cause is unknown and it is often mis-diagnosed as nervousness, insomnia, stress, arthritis, muscle cramps, or aging. There is evidence that shows it is related to a disruption in the neurotransmitter dopamine. It occurs twice as much in women. And while it may begin at any age, it worsens as you get older.
Moving your legs usually relieves the sensation so people with RLS often keep their legs in motion while sitting, tossing and turning in bed, or pacing the floor at night.
Because RLS is usually a lifelong condition with no cure, relieving symptoms and discomfort are the main focus of treatment. Limiting caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, iron, folate and magnesium supplements and treatment with dopamine can all help. Exercise regularly, with particular attention to walking as much as possible as well as yoga and stretching. You can also take a hot bath, use a heating pad or ice pack and massage the legs before going to bed.
Medications are usually helpful but no single medication effectively manages RLS for all individuals so there will be some trial and error.