While recuperating from knee replacement, I began to experience a burning sensation, and intense itching, on different areas of my leg. This happened after retiring to bed, and often woke me at night. I’d scratch so much in my sleep, the areas would be raw and red in the morning. Sometimes my leg just ached, or I felt something was crawling on it.
My orthopedic surgeon had no idea what would cause this, and advised using moisturizing lotion. It didn’t help. My husband said he often observed my legs moving as I slept, and joked I must be dreaming of running marathons.
One day I mentioned my suffering to a friend, and I found out she had experienced the same thing. She sought help from her physician, and was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome. Restless legs syndrome – National Library of Medicine I went to my family practice doctor, was diagnosed with RLS, and was advised on a course of treatment.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome? (RLS)
It is a condition that causes intense discomfort, usually in both legs, but sometimes affects only one. It interferes with sleep, which leads to fatigue. A person afflicted with this can begin to physically and mentally spiral downward, which happened to me. The recuperation and therapy from my surgery was painful, and this new discomfort increased my stress and depression.
Many pre-existing medical conditions can contribute to RLS, including, but not limited to;
- nerve disease
- thyroid disorder
- vitamin deficiency
- varicose veins
- stress and anxiety
Caffeine, alcohol, anti-depressants, and some allergy medications can make it worse. In my case, I drank coffee and tea daily, had fluctuating thyroid levels, and was experiencing stress and pain from my surgery. I also was taking an anti-depressant. To date, there is no known cause for RLS, and therefore, no known cure. nih.gov
Symptoms of RLS
- crawling sensation
- urge to move legs
- deep ache
- moving legs while asleep
- Get blood tests for deficiencies in vitamin B, folic acid, iron, and magnesium.
- Have your thyroid level checked.
- Become more active.
- If you’re overweight, eat healthier to lose pounds.
- Exercise daily.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Take breaks from sitting too long; get up, stretch your legs, and walk around.
- Reduce caffeine and alcohol intake.
- Sleep with a pillow between your legs.
- Discuss with your doctor if taking an anti-anxiety medication before going to bed could help you.
- Practice relaxation methods, such as yoga and meditation. helpguide.org
Using the above-mentioned suggestions, I gradually stopped experiencing frequent RLS discomfort. It took about six weeks to become effective. I have an occasional flare-up, but on a much lower level.
There are over-the-counter products you may want to try for relief, but if your symptoms worsen, or your pain increases, see your doctor for further advice and treatment options.