Restless Leg Syndrome

Archived Q&A and Reviews

October 2003

Does anyone have any information to share regarding restless legs syndrome? Interested in causes and remedies, including info. on Calm's forte night time remedy or other medications.Thanks from A Very Unrested kicker. An unrested kicker
I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia early this year. One of the associated symptoms was restless leg syndrome. I have to say that Calmsforte has done the trick 99% of the time for me. I'm 38 weeks pregnant at this point and wouldn't be able to sleep much without it. Someone recommended Boiron's Quietude, but it did nothing for me. Homeopathic remedies work differently for everyone, so I hope the Calmsforte works for you. Before Calmsforte, I had to get out of bed, do a series of squats, calf raises and one-leg dips on the stairs, and then a series of stretches before I could go back to bed...and then there was no guarantee that my legs wouldn't start up again. I do remember my doctor (UCSF) saying that there was some prescription medication I could take, but I didn't want to go that route since I was pregnant. Good luck! Jill
I have had Restless Leg Syndrome for years and finally have a combo of things I use when it is really bothering me.

First, I do a stretch every night where I sit at the top of the stairs, at the edge and lay back with my legs straight out. I then hug one leg to my chest and leave the other straight out for 30 seconds. Then switch. I follow that with a stretch to the back of the thighs - one leg on the bed and lean forward with a straight back. This gets the circulation going which is key. Regular walking helps too.

Secondly I have found taking calcium at bedtime really helps. I have tried numerous brands and find I usually have to switch every 6 months to a year. Currently I take Calcet which I got at Pharmaca on Solano Ave. in Berkeley. My acupunturist suggested taking calcium lactate with a bit of vinegar in water to help absorption.

Lastly, I have a terrific chiropractor (Patrick Tribble on The Alameda in Berkeley) who works over the muscles of my legs with a strong massaging machine. This makes the most difference. The other things keep me going in between visits (I go every other week). Hope those tips help I know how horrible it feels! been there

Hi - I also suffer from restless leg syndrome - though it is only really bad when I am pregnant. My only input, is that for me, it was MUCH worse when I drank milk. (I think high levels of phosphorus compared to calcium makes it worse). Sodas also made it worse. Taking a multi-vitamin made it better, as did doing ''squats'' before going to bed. I sympathize with you - restless leg syndrom is horrible! (I even had it in my sides one night!) Good luck. Katherine
I am a big believer in hydration and I can attribute most, if not all, of the ''jumpy legs'' that we get in our family to dehydration. Over the summer my 3yo got them so badly that we would put her to bed with a sippy cup of water and then when she would wake up in the middle of the night we would make her drink the whole cup. Sure enough, if she was able to get the water down the jumpy legs cleared up within about 15 minutes. If she refused to drink the water she would be up about every 10 minutes, kicking at her blanket and writhing around complaining that her legs hurt. After about 2 weeks of this routine she learned first-hand that is was important to drink water and now she asks for us to fill up her cup before going to bed. I even suspect that she wakes up some nights and drinks it herself without calling us because the cup is empty in the morning. People always ask about her having to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and I guess we're just lucky because that's not an issue and she's able to hold it through the night regardless of the amount of water consumed. Besides, I'd rather take her to the bathroom in the middle of the night and ''fix'' the problem than have her writhe around with jumpy legs all night. I hope this helps. Drink up! Siouxsie
I do a few things to relieve restless leg syndrome. I sleep with my feet/legs up on a pillow. I've had to do this for a long time but lately I don't have to sleep that way every night. Sometimes in the evening I get it and think it's because I'm really tired. I sit on the couch with my legs raised on a stool or something. Also, I find that exercise in a warm pool eliminates the nightly twitching. If I can't get to the pool for a while a hot bath does the trick. anon

April 2003

Ever since I was a teenager I've had a strange ''ailment'' that keeps me from falling asleep and has contributed to my insomnia. Starting when I get into bed -- and sometimes earlier in the evening -- my legs start aching and twitching and will not relax. It's especially bad right around the knee area. It's really hard to describe what the sensation feels like, but it's almost as if I have to keep moving my legs in order to get some relief, but the relief never comes.

I always thought this was just some funky muscular thing (my mom used to call it ''growing pains'') particular to me, since I had never heard of anyone else with this problem. However, a recent search on the Internet revealed a few sites devoted to something called ''restless leg syndrome.'' I had never heard of such a thing, but it's the closest I've come to putting a name to this condition.

Has anyone heard of or dealt with restless leg syndrome? If so, what sort of treatment, if any, have you tried? I'm very curious to find out more. It would be SUCH a relief to climb into bed and be completely relaxed instead of feeling like I need to run around the block to ''get the twitches out.'' Thanks! Sleepless in Oakland

I have had restless legs syndrome for about 12-15 years. Most current information is at You can email me if you want to discuss it further. Paula
Restless leg syndrome is something that sleep disorder centers deal with. You stay overnight there, wired up to all sorts of devices, and they monitor all your body functions. Then they can try and determine cause and effect for treatment. Depending on your health insurance, this may be an easy or difficult referral to get. They will probably want to treat you in a cheaper way first. But if their treatment is not effective, try and manipulate however you can to go for the overnight study. I cornered Kaiser into sending me to Stanford for one by paying out of pocket ($300) for a consultation there. The high mucky-muck doctor who examined me there (not for restless legs- another sleep disorder) wrote a letter to Kaiser saying that I medically needed that testing. I got the test and the results were very helpful.
Oh, how I feel your pain. It's ironic because I was going to write it asking basically the same question as you. I also have a problem with my restless legs, and unfortunately it has only gotten worse now that I'm pregnant. Actually, it makes me really sad because my husband and I can't even really sleep together anymore because I keep him up all night with my kicking and twitching.

A few years ago, I had a doctor prescribe, of all things, quinine sulfate--and it actually worked pretty well. Then, I moved to the Bay Area and never followed up on it with another doctor. Before I got pregnant, I took advil every night before I went to bed to help relieve the twitchiness. Now that I'm pregnant, I'm pretty much just suffering through it, although I will take Tylenol (the doctor ok'd this) if it gets really bad.

I found the Restless Leg Syndrome website the best for information. Basically, my new plan is to see a doctor at Kaiser pretty much as soon as I can after giving birth...because this stinks. Jennifer

oh yeah, do i have the ''wiggley leg'' thing bad ! i have had it for ever. it used to be really intense on airplanes, all cramped up for hours, and also when i take too much cold medicine. i find when i am overly tired (physically and otherwise ), my legs can start wiggling (exactly as you describe) even before i get into bed. the minute i sit down at the end of the day. if i take a warm bath, wear warm pj's, put heating pad on legs, and use relaxation techniques (that works least), this helps alot. do all of these things, if possible. good luck ! andrea
I've got the same problem and done the same Internet searches. An incredible variety of drugs is prescribed for the problem, which hints to me that none works especially well. Vigorous exercise during the day really does help (somewhat). Anon
I too have ''restless leg syndrome'' although not as badly as you, and it hardly bothers me. But it was worse during pregnancy (it was so irritating during my second pregnancy, that it would have factored into making a decision about being pregnant for a third time, had it come to that). My prenatal yoga instructor had an article she had found about it, and I do recall one thing that it talked about was stretching, particularly the calf muscles. So give it a try. Wish I remembered more; maybe someone else will have more info for you. Hilary
I used to have twitchy legs whenever I laid down to go to sleep. This went on for years and years. I would roll my feet back and forth and ''wag'' my legs for a while. I found it relaxing and soothing even though it kept me awake longer. I did some web research on restless leg syndrome (RLS) and the best advice I got was to try iron supplements. I did that for a little while and the RLS disappeared. I discontinued the iron supplements because iron is one of those supplements that can cause damage if overused, and I was not under a doctor's supervision. The RLS did not return, and I haven't had the problem since. -Phil
I have ''restless'' legs too! It took me years to figure out what to do. When I suffered a knee and foot injury I had to go through physical therapy. The PT realized that the tibial(?) bands that run down the side of my legs from my hip to my knees where unusually tight and knotted. Turns out this is where I 'carry' my stress. Both the PT and now my personal gym trainer suggest that I ''roll'' out the tightness with a large 3' long foam roller, which can be purchased at any yoga store for approx $19. I got mine at the yoga place in Rockridge on College Ave. They could probably show you how to use it too.

I turn on my side and roll the tibial band over the roller every morning and every night to release the tension in my legs. I literally cannot sleep if I don't do this. Sometimes it's painful, but also feels good. Good luck! Maya

Wow, I thought I was the only person who had something like this! For me, it's a tight muscle in one leg, right below the knee, that will not release, and no amount of walking or stretching or massaging will do anything. I can't possibly stay still when it's like that. It has at times kept me awake all night, whimpering and thrashing about. The only relief I have found is something like acupressure. There is a point along the nerve that ennervates that muscle that is up on the side of my thigh. If I press it really hard (and it does hurt)for a minute or two, the muscle gradually releases. The place to press is a spot that usually feels really hot. It also might help to see a chiropractor. Hope you get some relief! found some relief
Hi there, My husband has had RLS since he was a child. His parents had to massage his legs every night so he could sleep. We also did some research and found the following two things helped immensely. The first was he completely gave up caffeine. The second was taking a magnesium supplement. Hope this helps. Julie
You are not crazy or alone. Millions of people suffer from this condition to one degree or another. My husband and his family all have it, and I think our 3-year-old probably does too (judging from the acrobatics she sometimes performs before going to asleep). There is some evidence that a diet rich in Folate / Folic acid can help. Good luck! Dana
I developed what my OB called ''Restless Leg Syndrome'' during my pregnancy, and from what I understand, it is a kind of catch-all term applied to a range of sensations (some like the ones you describe). While my symptoms may be due to something else (I had a complicated pregnancy and post-partum), I went to an endocrinologist who discovered a vitimin D and calcium deficiancy. She put me on supplements of Vitimin D, calcium and magnesium which really seemed to help. Your symptoms sound a bit different than mine-- I reccomend that you go to a doctor (such as an endocrinologist familiar with this syndrome) to get checked out. I also found acupuncture helpful. Good luck--these symptoms are awful! anon
I've had this syndrome since I was a teenager and my mother as well. I haven't found the perfect cure yet. I have noticed, however, that I am more likely to get this if my legs get chilled. This happens sometimes when I'm wearing shorts or light-weight pants and then the temperature drops in the evening. Consequently, I have found that putting a heating pad on my legs when they are restless seems to help a lot in relieving the discomfort and helping me go to sleep. I'll be curious to see what other people say! Roxanne
In my case, the RLS started as a side effect of SSRI anti-depressants. I have used drugs to treat it (Klonopin and Sinemet) effectively at various times, but after going to the California Center for Sleep Disorders in Oakland, I'm now able to get to sleep without too much trouble just by practicing ''good sleep hygiene.'' My sleep doctor is Aamir Faruqui, M.D., 510/834-8333 (the practice's web site is Less Twitchy Than Before
I sometimes get what I would consider a mild version of RLS. It feels like I am overcaffinated and jittery or something even though I don't drink caffine. One thing that I find helps when I get this way is something I learned in yoga. First of all, just stretching out before going to bed really helps. If I start to feel it when I am in bed I do part of a yoga relaxation exercise I learned. I move from my toes up and tense up each part of my body (toes, calves, thighs, buttocks, stomach etc...). Tense you shoulders up like you are really cold, clench you fists and scrunch up your face so you look like you are screaming in agony) Just make your body as tense as possible and once you are holding every part as tense as possible, hold until you can't anymore(it's pretty tiring). Let you body shake a little. I try to make it to 20 seconds. Then release. I find this works out that restless energy that makes it immopssible to fall asleep. If that doesn't work, then I get out of bed and do more stretching. It really feels good and I usually can fall asleep after that. Hope you get some relief. CB
I, too, have had restless leg syndrome since I was a teen. During my first pregnancy, it was so bad that I paced around our tiny apartment for hours every night.

I found out that it was a recognized ailment quite a while ago, when my husband was in med school, but at that time the only treatment was some kind of antidepressant drug, I think, and it had limited results. I believe that is still the case, but I didn't want to try meds with so many side effects, and have stopped looking for a medical approach to it.

I have found a few things by trial and error that help me. Though I still get the feeling, mostly at night, but it hasn't kept me from sleeping for quite a few years now.

I have realized that the restless leg starts when I am really tired, and if I continue to stay up it settles in and keeps me awake. So now, if I'm watching a video with my kids at night and it starts, I go to bed as quickly as I can. That alone has made a real difference. It is like my body giving me notice that I need to get to sleep.

If it is bothering me at night, I get up and do stretches that stretch the big muscle on the front of my thighs. For instance, the one where you face a wall and lean against it with one hand while grabbing your foot behind you and gently pulling it out. (I guess you can tell I'm not a physical therapist by this description...) Stretching my hamstrings also helps.

There was a yoga position I used to do at night when I was kept awake by restless leg that really helped. I don't do it anymore because it hurts my knees now. It is called child's pose and involves tucking your calves up under your thighs and then bending over to lie the top part of your body on your thighs. It is very relaxing and seems to calm the leg muscles by simultaneously stretching and squeezing them.

No miracle cures here, but a couple of things that make the restless leg no longer a big problem in my life (except when it hits when I'm in the movie theatre...that's the worst!) Good luck! Anne

Hi - I also have restless leg syndrome - though it is only really bad when I am pregnant. It is a horrible feeling and makes it impossible to sleep at night. It is mostly in my legs, though at times I have also felt it in my arms and even in my sides! It is the worst thing ever! I have to continually flex my muscles and kick my legs. My father and my brother also have it.

These are a few things that I have found make it worse:
- Being very tired
- Drinking milk
- Some pain medications such as tylenol

Some things that help:
- Doing some leg exercises (squats) before I get in bed
- Taking vitamins
- Drinking lots of water. There are a lot of web sites that are devoted to this syndrome, I would read them, they could probably help you. Good luck! Feel free to contact me if you like. kepetit

My 65 year-old father has been officially diagnosed by a neurologist as having ''Restless Leg Syndrome''. He has suffered from it for many years and thought he was the only one! He has found relief at night by taking a small dose of Permax (generic name Pergolide-sp?). He lives in Baltimore but would be more than happy to talk with you if interested. patty
Both my husband and I have this same problem from time to time. He gets it more often then I do. We have termed it ''wiggle leg''. It is utterly annoying and I can completely sympathise with you. I never knew there was a real term for it. Sometimes when I have it I get up and do leg stretches. Sometimes I do leg excersises as well. Or if it's really bad I have my husband massage my leg. All of these things seem to help. My husband gets it so bad that he has to run up and down the stairs. He has a much higher metabolism than I do and he seems to require more physical activity in order to feel calm and focused. I don't know what brings it on, but I've always suspected it was due to not enough physical excersise and too much muscle tension. My husband just informed me that his condition improved after cutting caffeine out of his diet. He is very sensative to the drug. 3loons
There was previous discussion about restless leg syndrome, and I found this article about a possible cause. Here is the link: Study Suggests Cause For Restless Leg Syndrome Peggy