Restless Limb Syndrome (RLS)

RLS Causes and Treatment

Restless Limb Syndrome (RLS) is an irresistible urge to move the extremities associated with an unpleasant sensation (pain, discomfort, pulling, ache, tingling, creepy-crawly, bugs under the skin), worse at times of rest (sitting in a chair, in the car, at the movies, in bed before sleep onset), worse in the evening and relieved by movement of the affected body part. It is frequently associated with insomnia or daytime sleepiness. It may occur in up to 15% of the general population. CLICK HERE to take our Quiz now.

There Are Two Types of Restless Limb Syndrome


In primary RLS we do not know why a patient has it. More than half of patients with primary RLS have a family history of the condition. The risk of developing the condition is 3-6 times greater in patients who have an immediate relative with RLS.


In secondary RLS, there is usually an identifiable underlying medical cause.

Medical conditions associated with the condition include:

  • Iron deficiency (with or without anemia)
  • Vitamin (B12, folic acid) or mineral deficiencies (calcium, magnesium)
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Neurologic disorders
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure

Medications may also cause or worsen RLS:

  • Most anti-depressant medications (with the exception of Buproprion [Wellbutrin])
  • Sedating anti-histamines
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Central Nervous System stimulants (often use in ADHD)
  • Caffeine
  • Tobacco
  • Alcohol
  • Bronchodilator Inhalers used to treat asthma

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How do you treat it?

The first step is to see your physician and rule-out an underlying medical condition known to be associated with RLS.

Behavioral changes may also help

  • Decrease consumption of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco products
  • Exercise regularly, but not within 3-4 hours of bedtime
  • Temporary relief may be obtained by:
  • Walking
  • Massaging the affected area
  • Taking a warm bath

Medical treatments include:

  • correcting underlying medical conditions associated with RLS
  • replenishing deficient vitamins and / or minerals
  • a class of medications known as dopamine agonists (Mirapex, Requip, Sinemet)
  • a class of medications known as GABA receptor agonists (Neurontin, Lyrica, Horizant)
  • Analgesics (pain killers) ranging from OTC medications (Acetaminophen. Ibuprofen)
    all the way up to narcotics (Codeine, Hydrocodone, Morphine)
  • Anti-Seizure medications
  • Sleeping pills
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