Something I have suffered with, for as far back as I can remember is restless legs syndrome. Even when I was much younger, my legs would be fidgety and hurt at night. It is one of those things that unless you have experienced it, you have absolutely no idea of just how irritating and how painful it can be sometimes. There have been times where I could quite easily have hacked my legs off!
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. Sometimes it is caused by conditions such as anaemia or kidney failure, or is a side effect of some medication. Many women find that they suffer from it whilst they are pregnant, but then it (thankfully!) goes soon after the birth. In some cases, such as mine, it is just one of those things. It can be heredity – which is interesting because my dad also suffers with it from time to time.
Everyone experiences it differently. It affects me in two ways:
- Later on an evening, when I’m beginning to get tired, I get the urge to stretch my legs as far as possible, almost beyond what they can do. Even when I’ve stretched them, the feeling doesn’t go away. It is almost painful at times. I know when I need to go bed because I start fidgeting and can never get comfortable. I also get this feeling when I’m sitting in a confined space, such as at the cinema or on public transport.
- In bed, as well as the need to stretch, I get a sort of ‘crawling’ feeling in my legs. It is almost like something is inside my leg and crawling up. It can also feel like my legs are throbbing. It’s worse just before I’m dropping off, but even when I’m asleep I’m kicking my legs about. I am an absolute nightmare to share a bed with when I’m having a bout of it!
It doesn’t affect me every night. I can go weeks, even months without a single episode of it, and then it can happen every night for ages. I’m writing this now because I’m going through a phase of it happening every night. It affects my sleep because I’m kicking about and fidgeting, and my legs often feel sore in the morning.
What causes it?
As I mentioned above, there can be specific things that can cause or trigger episodes of restless legs syndrome. I’ve been to the doctors to rule out anything that may be causing it, and for me, it’s just one of those things. I don’t help myself at times – being overweight and drinking quite a lot of caffeine probably doesn’t help it – but that isn’t what causes it. I suffered from it when I was young, slim and before the coffee addiction took hold. For a few years my iron levels were only just above anaemic, which can be a cause of it, but that seems to have evened out since I have had Benjamin.
A lot of it is down to lifestyle changes. It is advised to cut down on caffeine consumption (which I have done, particularly in the evenings) and alcohol. Gentle exercise, warm baths and massages can also help. In some severe cases, doctors can prescribe medication, but as it acts like a sedative, it is something that I have so far managed to avoid.
Have you ever suffered with RLS? What has helped to ease the symptoms for you?