Many RLS sufferers have to take prescription medications to get their symptoms under control, but it makes sense to pursue other avenues before that time comes. Here are some recommendations from the experts and RLS patients themselves:
- Stop smoking, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Exercise every day, even if it’s just walking for a half-hour and/or doing a few calf stretches. Avoid strenuous exercise before bedtime.
- Change your ergonomics. Try working at a high stool where you can dangle your legs. Take an aisle seat during meetings or on airplanes so you can walk around periodically. (1)
- Change your sleep patterns—some patients report that symptoms do not occur if they sleep late in the morning. (1)
- Take over-the-counter drugs. Before taking stronger medications, try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, Aleve). However, be careful with use of NSAIDs. Although they work well, long-term use can cause stomach problems, such as ulcers and bleeding, and possible heart problems. (1)
- Have more sex. There are anecdotal reports that sexual activity and orgasm may relieve RLS symptoms. The release of orgasm-related dopamine and opioid may play a role in the relief of RLS symptoms. (2)
- Drink lots of water throughout the day and evenings. Don’t just gulp it all down at once, but sip it so that the body absorbs it rather than in one end and out the other. (3)
- Put soap under the sheets. Many RLS sufferers have reported that this mysterious remedy actually works. No one knows why, but it’s certainly harmless. Put a bar of Ivory under the bottom sheet and see if your symptoms subside. This also works for leg cramps. (4)
- Take apple cider vinegar tablets (or a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in water at bedtime if you can tolerate the taste). (7)
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation at bedtime. Best Health Magazine recommends, “Breathe deeply for a few minutes, then tense the muscles in your feet. Hold the tension for a few seconds, then relax. Next, tense your calf muscles, hold, and relax. Then do the same with your thigh muscles. Repeat the tensing-and-relaxing pattern, working all the way up your body to your neck and face muscles. When you’re finished, your whole body should feel relaxed.”
- Slowly and rhythmically slide your leg back and forth on the bed. This may keep your leg from jumping.
Natural News recommends the following home remedies: (5)
- Drink 1/4 cup of tonic water with quinine before bed; the quinine settles the nervous system, providing relief.
- Add black strap molasses to your diet. High in iron, it helps relieve RLS.
- Try a warm soak in the tub before bedtime with Epsom salts, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda.
- Add foods rich in magnesium to your diet, or take magnesium supplements to help reduce cramping.
- Use hot and cold therapy to reduce cramping.
- Visit an acupuncturist, who may be able to help relieve symptoms.
- Use herbal relaxants—try chamomile tea, valerian, kava, or mucuna pruriens.
- Take B vitamins.
- Wear socks to bed to keep feet warm and protected.
Purchase a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit.
TENS is regulated by the FDA, and a prescription from a medical professional is required to purchase one commercially. They cost anywhere from $40 on up. They all function basically the same way. Using a battery power source, the TENS device produces a high-voltage but low-current signal at a specified frequency and duration. This electrical current is applied externally to the skin using sticky foam electrode pads. TENS uses electrical pulses to treat pain.
One RLS sufferer reports: “When the tingling and twitching gets so bad I cannot sit calmly or even go to sleep, I stick the pads on the back of each leg about halfway between my butt and my knee. If I stand up and bend at the knees slightly, I can feel the muscle tighten on the back of my leg. I get into bed and place the circuit board on my chest. At first I can feel the pulses very clearly. They are like a mild pinprick. Over time they get fainter and fainter to the point I have to think about them to really feel them. There is no discomfort whatsoever, and for me, the relief is relatively quick. Within minutes the nasty jerking effects of my RLS are gone and I’m off to sleepy time. I leave the nerve stimulator on all night. I have had absolutely no side effects to this treatment, and the effect lasts a good three to five days. It is really quite remarkable how such a simple and inexpensive device can have such a positive effect on my life!” (6):
- Homeopathic doctors recommend Causticum at the 12C dilution for legs that are restless during the night.
- Another option is a 12C dilution of Tarentula hispanica, three times a day until you see improvements in symptoms. (8)
- Try Hyland’s Restful Legs. Debi
Goldben, RLS sufferer, reports: “It changed my life. I took it heavily for
a couple of months (several doses a day as indicated on the package). I
was able to reduce it to once a day, just before bed, and the past three years
I only take it when I need it (typically when I’m really tired
or have walked a lot).