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What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?


Restless Leg Syndrome is a sensory disorder that is characterised by unpleasant sensations in the legs, combined with a compelling urge to move the legs to ease the discomfort. Symptoms include tingling, itchiness, cramps or pain in the legs, particularly in the lower legs when sitting or lying down. As a result most people who suffer from restless legs syndrome have difficulty when trying to fall asleep. The severity of the symptoms depends on the individual, varying from mild to intolerable.                                                                                                  

What Causes Restless Legs?

RLS affects up to 10% of people annually, of both sexes, but is more common in women. It may begin at any age, but most people affected are middle-aged or older. The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is still unknown by medical professionals, although it is known genetics play a huge role. 50% of people who suffer from RLS also have family members with the condition, with it being closely linked to chromosome 12 and 14. Aside from genetics, other development risk factors include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson’s
  • Pregnancy
  • Nerve disease
  • Obesity
  • Certain medications such as anti-nausea, anti-seizure


While there is no known cure for RLS, treatment is targeted at minimising the symptoms which in time may even disappear. There are both medical and physical therapy treatments which can be used to do so, in addition to lifestyle changes that can be made:

Lifestyle Changes – For certain individuals where there is no apparent medical condition causing RLS and the symptoms are mild, certain lifestyle changes may reduce the symptoms. These include having a regular exercise programme, regular sleep schedule, decreased consumption of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, along with reducing the amount of stress influences in life.

Medical – A number of medications such as central nervous system depressants can be tried to help treat the more severe RLS. A GP will be able to recommend and prescribe a suitable medication should it be needed. In addition, if an individual feels that iron or magnesium deficiency could be the cause of the RLS, a GP can conduct some blood work and prescribe any necessary supplements.

Physiotherapy – Movement has been known to provide relief from the symptoms of restless legs syndrome and thus physiotherapy is a popular treatment used to treat the disorder. A physiotherapist will help build an effective exercise plan to put a routine in place, in addition to recommending various strengthening and stretching exercises. They may also recommend relaxation exercises or massage as relaxation techniques have been known to relieve RLS symptoms. In addition, movement pattern re-education which typically involves neuromuscular re-education of movement, balance, coordination, posture and one’s own sitting and standing activities may be recommended.

As mentioned, there is no specific cure for Restless Leg Syndrome, however, Physiotherapy can help control the condition, reduce symptoms and improve sleep. If you are suffering from RLS and have tried all possible treatments, get in touch with us on 01-6606582, or alternatively you can book an appointment with us online here. 

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