Self-Management of RLS
Non-Medical treatments used to treat RLS
There is currently no known cure for RLS but there are lifestyle changes and medications that you can try to make your RLS easier to manage.
In some instances RLS goes away of its own accord e.g. RLS associated with pregnancy sometimes goes away within a few weeks of the birth. This however is the exception and most people living with RLS have to learn to manage it themselves through lifestyle changes and/or through medication.
Several chronic diseases have links to RLS. For example, almost half of people with kidney disease will also have RLS. Other diseases linked to RLS include fibromyalgia, Parkinson's disease, thyroid disorders, diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and rheumatoid arthritis.
Many websites promise 'cures' for RLS in the guise of gadgets, bracelets, leg wraps etc. In our experience none of these have proven to be actual 'cures', although we acknowledge that some may reduce the symptoms associated with RLS. However we advise caution when dealing with such products and websites. Some people will try to exploit those living with RLS and charge for 'information' about how to cure RLS. We would again advise caution. If you are looking for advice, please contact us or visit our forum.
There are a number of lifestyle changes you can adopt in order to try to manage your RLS.
Managing your Environment
Create a relaxing bedroom environment. Keep your bedroom as cool as possible and try to use cotton sheets.
Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs, it may prevent nerves in your legs from compressing.
Develop a sleep schedule that works for you. Regardless of how much sleep you have had the night before, try to maintain a routine in the time you go to bed and the time you get up. Nap during the day if you need to but try not to sleep too much during the day if possible.
Some patients benefit from different practices before bedtime, such as a hot or cool bath.
Exercise in moderation. Take regular moderate exercise. Some people find that going for a gentle walk early in the evening helps.
Ensure you sit comfortably. If sitting at a desk or table, always ensure your feet can rest flat on the ground.
Always try to choose your seat when travelling by train or on an airplane so you can easily get up and move as necessary. When checking in for a flight. going to the cinema or a restaurant, request an aisle seat. If travelling by car, as either a driver or passenger, stop regularly for a good stretch. The RLS-UK Medical Alert Card, available free to all RLS-UK members, may help in these situations.
Use hot-cold contrast therapy. Sometime in the 2-3 hours before bed, try a 5-minute shower alternating 20 seconds of cold water followed by 10 seconds of warm. Once you've finished the hot-cold contrast, stand under the warm water for another couple of minutes to relax your nervous system. This will increase blood flow to your legs.
Daily stretching and also meditation can promote a sense of relaxation and help alleviate RLS symptoms
Magnesium Oil Spray used on the legs can be beneficial to some sufferers - this is available from larger pharmacies or health food stores. Check with your doctor before you start using this product.
Avoid eating late at night. If you have no choice but to eat later in the day, avoid stimulating or strong foods.
Some people have found that reducing dairy consumption has reduced symptoms.
Avoid or limit your intake or alcohol, caffeine and nicotine completely or, at a minimum, for several hours before going to bed.
Change your diet or add supplements. Try to eat more foods such as asparagus, spinach and kale, all of which are rich sources of the nutrient folic acid. Supplements such as Iron, Vitamin B complex, folic acid and Calcium can also help. Check with a doctor or nutritionist to find out if you’re low on any of these - you should always consult a medical practitioner before taking any supplements. More information about iron supplementation can be found in our news blog.
Stay hydrated. RLS can be aggravated by dehydration from a lack of water intake. So in addition to avoiding diuretics such as caffeine, you may also want to avoid nighttime alcohol intake, and drink sparkling water, filtered water, or decaffeinated teas throughout the day.