How To Stop Restless Legs Immediately? (Home Remedies Included)
Once again, it is time for bed but instead of falling asleep, you’re tossing and turning, trying to get your legs comfortable and relaxed. Your partner sighs, obviously aware of your near-constant wiggling. You wonder if either of you will ever get another good night’s rest.
This is a story I hear regularly in my vascular clinic, although many people see multiple specialists before winding up in my office. Restless legs are not always a result of circulation issues, but for many people, it is the main cause of their symptoms. Deciphering those symptoms will help you determine how to stop restless legs, now.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome is a name that encompasses a variety of irritating symptoms in the legs. Some people’s legs twitch uncontrollably, some people feel strange, hard-to-describe sensations in their legs, and some people just have the urge to move their legs frequently, or continuously once they lay down at night. A lot of people in my clinic will describe a “creepy-crawly” sensation, or a feeling like “water flowing up and down my legs.” Some people even flat-out tell me they can feel the blood running through their veins.
Home Remedies to Stop the Restlessness Immediately
First, I would recommend completing any testing that your healthcare provider has recommended, and any abnormalities that are found should be corrected. The test provided by a medical healthcare provider is listed below. Hopefully, your testing has included an evaluation for vein disease. The first steps in stopping restless legs due to vein disease like venous insufficiency or pelvic vein compression are essentially “home remedies” and require no invasive procedures or conventional medications. They are as follows:
- Proper leg care - Use graduated compression socks during waking hours.
- Compression socks (also known as stockings) can be obtained over-the-counter at your local drug store, or online. These are not your grandmother’s stockings! These days, you can find every style, color, pattern, and material to suit your preferences
- Socks should be snug and require some practice getting on and off efficiently. There are lots of great assistive devices available for doffing and donning, and videos online that show the best techniques.
- If my symptoms happen at night, why shouldn’t I wear my compression socks at night? In rare cases, people can have arterial disease of the legs that makes wearing socks at night dangerous. If wearing compression socks at night causes you more pain in the lower legs and feet, take them off right away.
- Exercise - Low-impact aerobic exercise like walking, swimming, and cycling all encourage better circulation in the legs
- Elevation - Some people find relief by elevating their legs and allowing gravity to pull blood back toward the heart.
- Supplement - There is some evidence to support horse chestnut seed extract as a treatment for circulatory disorders of the veins. While clinical trials have not focused on the specific symptom of restlessness, many trial participants experienced less leg pain, swelling, and itchiness while taking this natural supplement. It can be found over-the-counter at specialty food and vitamin stores, or prescribed by your vascular healthcare provider.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
The short answer is: so many things. RLS is a poorly-understood condition as a whole. Research has found links to low-iron levels, obesity, smoking, and chronic diseases like peripheral neuropathy, sleep apnea, diabetes, and Parkinson’s. RLS can also be the result of poor vein circulation in the legs, namely chronic venous insufficiency and/or pelvic vein compression.
What tests can diagnose Restless Leg Syndrome?
There is no definitive test that can diagnose RLS. The diagnosis is made based on your symptoms, however, there are many tests that your healthcare provider may recommend to attempt to find the cause of your RLS. Some possible testing may include lab work, a sleep study, and nerve conduction studies, but the most important test in my vascular office would be an ultrasound of the veins, either in the legs, the pelvis, or both. These vein ultrasounds are called venous Dopplers.
The Venous Doppler
Often when I recommend that my patients have a Venous Doppler, they respond by saying that they have already had one. In fact, many of them have had numerous Venous Dopplers over the preceding months to years. That’s because many people with RLS also have other symptoms that could be concerning for a blood clot (e.i. swelling, leg pain). These patients receive the standard Venous Doppler that looks for only one thing: a blood clot.
Ruling out a blood clot is not enough for people with restless legs. They need a specialized type of Venous Doppler that assesses the way blood flows through the veins, how fast it moves, and in which direction it travels, in addition to looking for structural defects of the veins. These test are performed by ultrasound technologists that have undergone additional training, and they are usually performed exclusively at highly specialized vein and vascular clinics.
These type of Dopplers are generally called a “reflux study” when performed in the legs, and a “pelvic vein ultrasound” when performed in the lower belly.
People with restless legs from an unknown origin should have one or both of these tests performed. If your healthcare provider doesn’t refer you for these tests, seek them out on your own.
Often, by the time I meet patients with restless legs, they have tried the immediate methods mentioned above and aren’t getting the results they need. If these symptoms are persistent and severe enough to start affecting their quality of life, and we have confirmed a diagnosis of vein disease, it’s time to start talking about procedures. Fortunately, procedures for venous insufficiency and pelvic vein compression are minimally invasive, outpatient procedures that take only minutes to perform and require little to no preparation or recovery. Most patients can have these procedures, regardless of age or other health conditions, and most health insurances cover the costs.
If you have restless legs, and have either been diagnosed with venous insufficiency, pelvic vein compression, or suspect that you have circulatory problems in your legs, seek out qualified and experienced vein providers to tell you if vein treatment is right for you, because for many patients, these procedures stop restless legs.