Relief for Restless Leg Syndrome

Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.

Q. I have what I refer to as "restless legs." At night when I am trying to go to sleep, my calf muscles feel as though they will either cramp or twitch, making me feel like I need to move them. I try to drink plenty of water, eat bananas, and exercise regularly to help prevent this problem, but if I don't exercise for a few days, it starts up again. Is there any vitamin supplement or anything else that would help prevent this terrible feeling?

A. "Restless legs" is a chronic annoying pain in the legs which occurs at night and often causes twitching movements of the legs while lying down. The quickest way to respond to the urge to move is to do just that -- get up and move around the bedroom! Try to walk right before going to bed; the endorphins that are released with exercise may promote restful sleep. Some people have reported success with changing positions, wiggling their toes around, and taking two aspirin before bedtime.

Stress and fatigue can make this syndrome worse. Reduce your stress level by giving yourself quiet time and by trying some relaxation techniques. While some studies have shown success with soaking feet in cool water, others report a heating pad proves to be soothing and effective. See which works for you.

Taking one multivitamin with extra iron daily is a good idea, as some studies have shown an association between iron deficiency and restless leg syndrome. Also, keep in mind that eating a big meal late at night before bed can trigger symptoms, so try to eat a little earlier in the night.


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