We all experience those occasional bouts of insomnia or restlessness when we just can’t seem to get comfortable or settle down.
In some cases, we might feel like there is something crawling on our legs, even if there is nothing there. Jigging the affected leg, tapping it on the ground, or sometimes lightly slapping the specific area with the crawling sensation usually helps stop those sensations so that we can get back to sleep or our other activities.
However, that is not the case for up to 15 percent of the general population, who suffer from restless leg syndrome.1,2 In this condition, that crawling feeling in the legs never stops, even when sitting still or trying to sleep.
Worse yet, either being too comfortable or too uncomfortable can exacerbate the condition. This can leave those who suffer from restless leg syndrome feeling both jittery from having to constantly move their legs to stop the unpleasant sensation and exhausted from sleep deprivation.
While this can obviously be a source of great frustration for your patients with this condition, as well as potentially limit their ability to hold down a job or attend school, proper chiropractic care may be able to help.
What causes restless leg syndrome, and how can chiropractic care help treat it?
What causes restless leg syndrome?
The actual cause for restless leg syndrome is still uncertain, but it appears to be linked to motor control in the brain. It is thought to be similar to conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, both of which are known to have muscle spasms as one of their hallmark features.1,2
The condition is also thought to be hereditary, particularly if it shows up before the age of 40, and is more common in women than in men. In fact, it can even show up sometimes in the third trimester of pregnancy.1-3
Standard treatment for restless leg syndrome
Standard medical treatment for restless leg syndrome often will involve pharmacological treatment with dopamine agonists to stop the involuntary muscle action, as well as opioids, particularly for daily symptoms or cases that have not responded to opioids alone.4
Unfortunately, both of these drugs have very dangerous side effects, including sedation and – in the case of opioids – the risk of addiction.
Chiropractic treatment for restless leg syndrome
A 2007 article in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association provided a case report of one example of nonpharmacological treatment for restless leg syndrome.2
This case involved a 42-year-old man who suffered from daily restless leg syndrome, mainly at night, over the previous two years. He described the discomfort as a heavy pressure starting at the buttocks, and then becoming heavier as it moved down the leg.
Shifting position or shaking the affected leg seemed to temporarily stop the sensation. The man began a naturopathic diet, including magnesium supplements, decreasing his coffee intake, and increasing his protein intake. At the end of two weeks, he reported a 65 percent improvement in his symptoms.2
Restless leg syndrome can interfere with a patient’s ability to lead a normal life because of its ability to hamper daily interactions in a work, school, or general public environment. Fortunately, research into this condition is pointing toward changes in diet and lifestyle habits as part of an overall treatment plan.
- Zucconi M, Ferini-Strambi L. Epidemiology and clinical findings of restless legs syndrome. Sleep Medicine. 2004;5:293-299.
- Stupar M. Restless legs syndrome in a primary contact setting: A case report. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association. 2008;52(2):81-87.
- Kushida CA. Clinical presentation, diagnosis, and quality of life issues in restless legs syndrome. American Journal of Medicine. 2007 Jan;120(1 Suppl 1):S4-S12.
- Bayard M, Avonda T, Wadzinski J. Restless legs syndrome. American Family Physician. 2008 Jul 15;78(2):235-240.