Restless leg syndrome (RLS), or what’s also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), is a common neurological disorder in which the person has an uncontrollable urge to move. According to the Florida Hospital System, as many as one in ten people in the United States may suffer from this condition. While some cases RLS go away without the need for medical treatment, many worsen and become more frequent with age.
RLS lives up to its namesake by primarily affecting the legs. People who suffer from this condition often report itching, ticking, and/or tingling sensations within their legs, prompting them to move their legs in an effort to ease these symptoms. Unfortunately movement only provides minor, temporary relief of RLS symptoms, as the symptoms return when the individual’s leg goes back into a resting state. It’s important to note that RLS can affect any limb or area of the body, including but not limited to the arms, head, hands, feet, torso, and of course legs.
There are several different treatment options available for restless leg syndrome, including both drug and non-drug related. Medications like pramipexole, ropinrole, rotigotine, and cabergoline have been shown to relieve the symptoms associated with RLS while offering improved sleep quality in the process. With drugs such as these, however, come unwelcomed side effects, which is why it’s important for individuals to discuss the pros and cons of medication before beginning any new treatment regimen.
One of the most effective non-drug treatments of RLS is massage therapy. Some people assume that massage therapy is only useful for relieving stress and muscle tension, but this isn’t the case. Massage therapy has been used for centuries to treat a wide range of diseases and conditions, including restless leg syndrome. A professional massage therapist will gently massage the client’s leg that is being affected by RLS, easing the uncontrollable twitching and tingling sensations.
How can massage therapy ease the symptoms of restless leg syndrome? It’s able to do this in several different ways. For starters, massage therapy “tricks” the body into thinking the leg is moving when it’s actually still. As the therapist massages the client’s leg, it stimulates the muscles to make them contract. As a result, the client may experience temporarily relief of RLS-related symptoms. Massage therapy also promotes greater blood flow throughout the body, which may further relieve the client’s symptoms.
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