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Battling Restless Leg Syndrome? Choose Your Weapon of Relief

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Restless Legs Syndrome  related image Photo: Getty Images

Have you ever tried to relax after a long day in your favorite recliner only to have a creepy-crawly, jumpy feeling in your legs? You feel like you want to kick your feet or shake your legs, but the sensation continues until you get up and become active again. This may also occur when you are sitting in an airplane and your legs just will not stay still. If this has happened to you, you may be suffering from restless leg syndrome (RLS).

About 10 percent of the U.S. population has RLS. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), "several studies have shown that moderate to severe RLS affects approximately 2-3 percent of adults (more than 5 million individuals). An additional 5 percent appears to be affected by a milder form." However, there are several ways, both medical and alternative, to alleviate the frustrating symptoms of RLS.

Although a number of medications have been used for treating RLS, Mirapex and Requip have been approved specifically for this condition by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Both are dopamine-based. Unfortunately, augmentation may occur with dopamine-based medication after long-term use, which may cause an earlier onset of symptoms, possibly with more intensity, the sensations may effect other body parts, and the duration of relief from the medication may become shorter.

UCB in Brussels has completed new 5-year data that showed that the medication Neupro® (rotigotine) demonstrated continued symptomatic clinical benefit with a low risk of augmentation. On-going research is being done in this area so be sure to discuss these important issues with your doctor.

A number of alternative remedies have been said to relieve RLS and are considerably less risky. Supplements such as iron, folic acid, vitamin B, and magnesium may be helpful. In addition, a warm bath before retiring for the night may also help relax the legs. Some patients have found relief wearing warm or heated-up socks. Acupuncture and electric nerve stimulation may be another option. Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) are investigating the possible dopamine connection with the symptoms of RLS. A recent article on aolnews.com reported that a patient eased his symptoms of RLS with sex and masturbation. "The chemical release of dopamine in the brain triggered by masturbation and sexual intercourse could ease the symptoms," said sleep specialist and RLS expert, Dr. Mark Buchfuhrer. In my opinion, treatments of this nature are far more appealing than taking a pill.

Whether you treat your RLS symptoms with prescribed medication or use alternative methods, make sure you do plenty of research to choose the safest and most effective method for you.


Reviewed May 19, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment19 Comments

Hi Betty & Linda,
I tried Mirapex a few years back and, like you said, it gave me insomnia. Isn't it strange to prescribe medication that causes insomnia for a condition that keeps you up at night??!!

Since I've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, I have found that using the cpap machine also helps my RLS, although, I'm not sure what one has to do with the other. Have either of you been diagnosed with sleep apnea?

When I take a long plane trip, I usually take Klonopin before I leave and it calms my legs. I haven't tried the cherries, yet.

I plan to do more research and write a follow up article about alternative remedies for RLS. Your comments are a great help. Thanks.

June 6, 2011 - 6:13pm
EmpowHER Guest

Lynda: I was at the point where I would risk anything for relief. I hope you never get to that point. But I had dealt with the monster for so many years, I couldn't take it any longer. My family doctor is very caring and he sent me to a neurologist that put me on the Mirapex. At least if I don't sleep, I'm still not suffering to the point that I am walking the floor all night crying. I don't know how I functioned, I didn't very well.

A side point. Does ice cream set your RLS/EKD into a frenzy? Sometimes I can eat it but then it will exacerbate the RLS/EKD. I give in sometimes and eat it, because I love it, but I will suffer sooner or later.


June 6, 2011 - 5:07pm

Unfortunately, I haven't found any ONE thing that works all the time. But I'd still rather struggle with the RLS nighttime torture (and you are right anon - it IS torture) than risk some of the side effects of any prescriptions a doctor might want me to try. Fortunately, I have no other health issues, so I have this option for myself. Some nights I get lucky and one trick works.........other nights it takes two or more tricks to quiet my legs. Makes going to work really miserable the next morning....LOL

June 6, 2011 - 3:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have RLS/EKD and have had it for many many years. I take Mirapex which helps but I still don't sleep well. I've tried everything, but will try the cherries. Sometimes I have a break through, the Mirapex isn't working so I have to take a vicodin. I have several health issues and the RLS/EKD is the worst. It is a real nightmare. It really is like torture.


June 6, 2011 - 1:20pm

You're most welcome! :-)

June 1, 2011 - 8:32pm

Thanks for the book recommendation. I'll check it out. :)

June 1, 2011 - 7:50pm

I hadn't heard of cherries as a remedy for RLS but if it helps, I'll try it. When I google cherries, I found they contain melatonin which is great for regulating sleep.

I'm with you - I would much rather eat cherries than take meds. Thanks for the tip!

May 30, 2011 - 3:12pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Vonnie Kennedy)

My mother found it in a book called "Miracle Medicine Foods". It's no longer in print, but can found on Amazon.com for pennies. Cherries used to be used for gout. My mom suffers leg cramping at night, especially after one of her long, long walks that she loves. She figured if it worked for her leg cramps it might just help my restless legs. For the most part it does!

May 30, 2011 - 4:49pm

I have suffered occasional bouts of RLS most of my life. In the past 4 - 5 years, those occasional bouts have become pretty regular, and over the past year, just about every night. I have found that a handful of cherries help, either fresh cherries, frozen, canned, or even a small glass of tart cherry juice at night. For the longest time I used potassium which helped. That no longer works. Now I use cherries and on really bad nights I'll get up and take a magnesium capsule. In addition, if it's really bad, I'll also do some leg stretches while up. I'm just not ready yet to discuss it with a doctor and try prescription medication. I'd rather stick with the cherries for as long as I can.

May 26, 2011 - 2:57pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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