Restless leg syndrome (RLS), or what’s also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), is a common neurological disorder characterized by sudden and spontaneous and sometimes jerky movements in a person’s limbs, along with various other uncomfortable sensations. Symptoms usually flare up at night or at rest, particularly just before falling asleep and during sleep. 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. However, RLS can affect any limb or area of the body, including but not limited to the arms, head, hands, feet and the torso. People who experience this condition often report itching, tingling and/or tickling sensations in the affected area, frequently accompanied by involuntary, “jumpy” movements. This prompts them to move their legs in an effort to dispel these symptoms. Movement provides minor, temporary relief, but RLS symptoms frequently return when the individual’s leg reverts to a resting state.
There are several different treatment options, both drug and non-drug, available for restless leg syndrome. 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 unwelcome 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. Massage therapy is commonly associated with relieving stress and muscle tension. Beyond this, massage therapy has been used for centuries to treat a significant range of diseases and conditions, including restless leg syndrome. A professional massage therapist can use many techniques of massage to ease the uncontrollable twitching and tingling sensations of the client’s lower limb(s) that are affected by RLS.
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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