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Restless Leg Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, it is an unusual condition of the nervous system characterised by the compelling need to move the legs.

These symptoms can lead to very poor sleep, as they make it difficult for the body to truly relax. The strange sensation in the calves has been described as a type of cramp, soreness or a creeping, crawling feeling.

Some liken the sensation to shooting darts of electricity or even squirming insects inside the legs. The same symptoms can also be caused by other conditions including diabetes, iron deficiency anaemia, alcoholism and some forms of arthritis. It is relatively common in pregnancy.

Standing up, walking or any other exercise that involves the legs can usually relieve the unpleasant physical sensations of Restless leg syndrome. Sleep deprivation is one of the more common side effects of Restless leg syndrome, since sufferers may need to get out of bed and walk around many times every night in order to alleviate the cramps.

No one knows what causes Restless leg syndrome. It can begin at any age, including childhood and there appears to be a strong genetic link. Iron deficiency is the most important risk factor.


Some people find that symptoms improve if they cut back or avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Successfully managing an underlying condition, such as anaemia or diabetes, can sometimes alleviate the symptoms.

It is very important to see your GP if symptoms persist as it may indicate a deficiency of calcium, magnesium or iron.

Regular daily exercise, even as low-intensity as walks, may help reduce Restless leg syndrome. Getting your body used to a recurring sleep schedule and minimizing stress are also highly recommended.

Massage can be beneficial to help relieve the some of the symptoms of the condition, but will not cure the condition.

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