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Restless Legs Syndrome - Causes and Top 10 Natural Remedies

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November 14, 2010, Last Updated April 6, 2011
By Louise Carr, Contributing Columnist

Itís time for bed and yet again your legs wonít let you relax. Twitching, jerking, itching, throbbing Ė why wonít your legs stay still? If you canít get peace until you move your legs and even then that peace is short lived, you may have restless legs syndrome. Restless legs syndrome is more common than you think. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National Institutes of Health, as much as 10 percent of the U.S. population may suffer from restless legs syndrome. Internationally, 2 to 15 percent of the population may suffer, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Restless legs syndrome causes sleep problems and distress and makes it difficult to relax. A number of studies suggest lifestyle changes to lessen your symptoms of restless legs syndrome. What can you do to calm your legs? Which natural remedies work best for restless legs syndrome?

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by a strong and irresistible need to move your legs. You may experience strange sensations that seem to force you to move your legs, such as creeping, pulling, tugging, tingling or gnawing deep in the legs.

Restless legs syndrome symptoms ease as you move your legs but get better only as long as you are still moving them. Many people pace the floor, constantly move their legs under the covers or kick in bed.

Restless legs syndrome is classed as a movement disorder because you are forced to move the legs in order to relieve symptoms. Annoyingly, symptoms of restless legs syndrome start just when youíre ready to rest and can be especially bad when you lie down. It seems restless legs syndrome is activated when you try to relax. The longer you rest, the stronger your symptoms become.

Restless legs syndrome can make falling and staying asleep a nightmare. You may also suffer from a related condition Ė periodic limb movement of sleep Ė which causes you to involuntarily jerk and kick at regular intervals through the night, depriving both you and your bed partner of deep and valuable sleep.

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

No one really knows what causes restless legs syndrome. Your restless legs may be due to a dysfunction within the brainís circuits that use dopamine, a neurotransmitter needed for smooth movement and muscle activity. When the dopamine pathways are disrupted, you can experience involuntary movements. Parkinsonís disease sufferers, another dopamine pathway disorder, often suffer from restless legs syndrome. Having restless legs syndrome, however, doesnít mean you will develop Parkinsonís disease.

Restless legs syndrome appears to be linked to certain chronic diseases, although experts are not sure if these diseases actually cause restless legs syndrome. Linked conditions include kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. A check-up with a healthcare professional to rule out these conditions is useful. Generally, restless legs syndrome is not accompanied by any other underlying medical condition.

You may be able to blame the family Ė research suggests restless legs syndrome has a genetic component. According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, more than half of restless legs sufferers have family members with the condition. A 2007 study from lead author Hreinn Stefansson and colleagues at research centers in Iceland, the US, Spain and the UK found a genetic variation that makes it more likely youíll suffer from restless legs syndrome. Researchers studied the gene sequence of 306 people with restless legs syndrome and 15,664 people without. In people with restless legs syndrome there was an association within a gene called BTBD9 on chromosome 6. A 2010 study from the Research Centre of the University of Montreal Hospital Centre, Montreal, Canada found siblings of an individual with restless legs syndrome were around 3.6 times more likely to have restless legs syndrome than those without an affected sibling. The offspring of parents with restless legs syndrome had 1.8 times the risk.

Who Suffers Most From Restless Legs Syndrome?

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