Restless Legs Syndrome affects many people who are trying to get a good night’s sleep. The uncontrollable compulsion to move the legs and uncomfortable sensations can lead many to seek medical treatment. Chiropractic can offer an alternative to traditional medicines.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
When a Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) patient is resting or relaxing, they may have sensations in their legs, which include “creeping, crawling, tingling, burning, or pain in the lower limbs”. This can lead to “pacing, shaking, or rubbing the limbs” or a general compulsion to move the legs; however, this only provides temporary relief to a person suffering from RLS. Interestingly, the less relaxed or comfortable a patient is, the less likely they will experience symptoms. This could even lead some patients to “sleep on a hard floor”. Patients may also avoid long car rides, movies, or any “prolonged sitting” activities. RLS can be a very stressful disorder, and it leads to sleep deprivation.1 This disorder affect 2.5-15% of the population, and at least 20% of pregnant women and dialysis patients. If a patient does not move voluntarily to reduce the urge sensations in the legs, “involuntary spastic movements or twitches may occur”.2
Traditional Treatments for RLS
Doctors may look first for varicose veins and iron deficiency. They will ask a patient to reduce caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, and they will suggest increased exercise.3 Typically, medical doctors will advise a patient to take “dopaminergic agents, opiates, and sedatives”. Unfortunately, these don’t always work, and they can have side-effects.4 Requip is a medication approved for RLS, as the disorder may be related to dopamine.5
Chiropractic Alternatives for RLS
Some chiropractors may recommend nutritional supplements, including tryptophan, vitamin E, and folic acid. Patients will typically be asked to avoid caffeine, as well. Recently, there has been a theory that patients may be iron-deficient. G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN recommends absorbing “60-90 mg of elemental iron daily”, on an “empty stomach, and with 100 mg of vitamin C”.6 Muscle movement is controlled by nerves. Some chiropractors suggest that irritated or compressed nerves, caused by misalignment of the vertebrae, will lead to a nerve misfiring, which “causes the muscles to twitch or jerk”. Chiropractic adjustments may help these RLS patients.7 One chiropractor, Dr. Edward Ira Gould, also recommends a specific exercise to help some patients: “doing calf raises several times a day”. This will lead to increased blood flow. Dr. Gould believes that RLS is a “vasculature (blood flow problem)”. He recommended doing the calf raises 5 times a day (until the calf muscles start to “burn”) for 6 weeks.8 Other alternative treatments may include “warm/cold baths, electric nerve stimulation, (and) oral magnesium.”9 Some chiropractors feel RLS originates in the “pelvic area of the lumbar and sacral regions of the lower back”. A chiropractor can help resolve the pelvic instability with adjustments, exercises, and stretches.10