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What are the Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?

By Greenfield, Paige
Content provided by: Better Medicine from Healthgrades

Of all of the medical terms out there, perhaps restless legs syndrome (RLS) best describes the symptoms experienced by people with the disorder. With RLS, you literally have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. But for many people who have RLS, the signs and symptoms don't stop there. You may also experience the following:

Your legs feel funny. Specific sensations vary from person to person, but they may include throbbing, creeping, pulling, tingling, and other unpleasant feelings. They may range from irritating to painful.

You want to move your legs. There are two reasons this may occur. First, RLS causes the irresistible desire to move your legs. Second, moving your legs helps relieve the discomfort. As a result, you continue moving them to minimize the uncomfortable sensations or to prevent them from coming back.

Symptoms strike at night. It's a cruel reality that relaxing revs up symptoms. This can make falling asleep and staying asleep nearly impossible. So, to make matters worse, you may experience symptoms of sleep deprivation since you aren't catching enough z's. Left untreated, RLS can lead to issues such as daytime sleepiness, which can interfere with your work, relationships, and daily life.

Your legs move spontaneously. More than 80 percent of people with RLS also experience a condition called periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). With PLMS, your legs may twitch or jerk while you're sleeping as often as every 15 to 40 seconds. This can continue all night long—seriously affecting your ability to get some shut-eye.

Your symptoms may come and go. Some people with RLS experience periods of remission, in which symptoms get better over several weeks or months, and then return. 

Medical Reviewer: Marcellin, Lindsey, MD, MPH Last Annual Review Date: 2013-05-08 Copyright: © Copyright 2013 Healthgrades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

Reference: Sleep Disorders section on Better Medicine

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A combination of moderate aerobic exercise and lower-body resistance training 3 times per week may reduce symptom severity by about 50%.