The Link between Restless Leg Syndrome & Fibromyalgia
Do you sometimes toss and turn in your bed at night, constantly fighting the urge to keep moving your legs?
Now this is very disturbing for your sleep (and possibly for your partner too) but the condition known as restless leg syndrome or RLS has been linked to fibromyalgia according to a new study published in the October issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The link is so strong that those with fibromyalgia are 11 times more likely to have RLS than the general population.
There is already a similarity between fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome
This is because both conditions tend to keep sufferers awake at night, often leading to serious sleep deprivation and insomnia.
Restless legs syndrome or RLS is a condition caused by a disorder in the central nervous system and the name really tells you exactly what it is. The disorder can worsen with age. The symptoms are unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move while trying to rest. Some describe the sensations as if there are insects crawling inside the legs together with a burning, creeping or tugging feeling. These sensations can vary from just plain uncomfortable or irritating to really painful and distressing. The big problem is that the condition only arises when you go to lie down, rest and try to sleep. Sufferers have difficulty both falling asleep and staying asleep so that that they suffer from exhaustion and the quality of their lives can be severely affected.
Fibromyalgia or FMS can cause severe pain and tenderness in muscles, ligaments and tendons. Shoulder and neck pain is common but some people with fibromyalgia also have problems with digestion, sleeping (insomnia) and not surprisingly, suffer anxiety and depression. Others have cognitive problems, making it difficult to remember or pay attention. Additional symptoms can include irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ)and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet. Sufferers may be extra sensitive to odors, noises, bright lights and touch. Fibromyalgia is often linked with the Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Research and the link
This link between fibromyalgia and RLS was discussed in a Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study that followed 172 people suffering from fibromyalgia.
- 93% were female and the average age was fifty.
- They were compared with a control group of 63 people who had no symptoms of fibromyalgia and with an average age of 41.
- The researchers found that 33% of the fibromyalgia group also had RLS as compared to only 3.1 percent of the control group.
Professor Nathaniel F. Watson (of the University of Washington in Seattle) commented: “Sleep disruption is common in fibromyalgia and often difficult to treat. It is apparent from our study that a substantial portion of sleep disruption in fibromyalgia is due to restless legs syndrome."
The medical approach to treating both these conditions is typically with pharmaceutical drugs
But all too often, such drugs come with harmful and toxic side effects. Fortunately, there are more natural ways to help. If you suffer from RLS, you can help the condition by following these tips and, if your RLS is mild, these home treatment tips may well be sufficient.
During the day
- Reduce, or preferably cut out altogether, caffeine, alcohol and tobacco use.
- Take iron supplements if you have low iron levels – but be sure to get tested first as too much iron in your system can be dangerous.
- Try wrapping your legs in ace bandages or wear compression stockings to see if this helps.
- Start an exercise program such as every half hour or hour at work, get up, stretch and walk around for 5 minutes. Do leg stretching exercises frequently.
- Keep a sleep schedule so you have a record if you need to show your doctor.
- If you have to go on a long car trip or long distance flight, make sure you exercise and stretch or just walk around as frequently as you can.
- Stretch your legs, do knee bends or rotate the ankles.
- Massage your legs with a healing oil.
- Relax with meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
- Have a bath or soak your feet in hot water. Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad. Some people find comfort from a cold compression.
- Try lying on your side with a pillow between your knees.
Natural remedies for fibromyalgia include
- Swimming or exercising in warm water for an hour or so three times a week which can be very beneficial, helping to ease the pain and improve the quality of life. Any other low impact exercises will help keep muscles strong and flexible while also controlling weight and helping the person to remain active. Suggestions include walking, yoga, tai chi or pilates.
- Colloidal silver has proven to be very effective in treating fibromyalgia. An initial daily dose of 2 to 4 oz can be reduced to 1 oz once the condition improves. Be wary of your source for this product – ensure it is reputable.
- Anti-inflammatory spices in the diet such as turmeric, garlic, onions and ginger.
- Supplements of calcium and magnesium which can help to relax tight muscles and calm nerves. Magnesium is a naturally occurring substance that calms nerve cells.
- Organic apples and apple juice contain malic acid which will help relieve pain and generate cell energy.
- Garlic, astralagus and echinacea are three important ways to strengthen the immune system while improving circulation.
- Plenty of good sun exposure to increase vitamin D levels, or vitamin D3 supplements, can help reduce inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is an important consideration in the management of fibromyalgia syndrome according to a recent study.
- A deficiency in vitamin B12 is another possible contributing factor for this condition.
- Increasing serotonin can lead to a reduction in pain signals. SAMe is a natural compound found in the body and is needed for optimum immune function while helping to maintain cell membranes. SAMe is also instrumental in the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotinin but also norepinephrine and dopamine. 5-HTP increases serotonin levels in the brain while reducing the number of tender areas in the body. Either of these compounds can be taken as supplements but not together or with anti-depressants.
- Taking Sugar D-ribose to improve energy production within cells.
There are homeopathic substances to reduce muscle pain, including Rhus Tox (for stiffness and muscle ache that gets worse in cold weather), Cimicifuga racemosa (for muscle pain that feels like bruising (especially helpful when fibromyalgia affects the neck to mid-back) and Bryonia alba (for muscle and joint pain that is worse with motion).
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Hughes, A. J. (n.d.). Sleep disturbance and multiple sclerosis
nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Documents/Sleep_Hughes_2016.pdf. (Accessed, 6 October 2021).