RLS & Natural Health Remedies | Health Blog

Date: 11/04/2010    Written by: Hiyaguha Cohen

Restless Legs Syndrome Linked to Fibromyalgia

Restless Legs Syndrome, RLS, Restless Leg Syndrome

There’s news for people who lie awake in bed at night suffering from restless legs syndrome (RLS). A new study published in the October issue of Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed a strong link between RLS and fibromyalgia (FMS). In fact, the overlap of these two conditions is so strong that people with fibromyalgia are 11 times more likely to have RLS than people in the general population.

Both fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome tend to keep sufferers awake at night. Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by creepy sensations running through the legs and accompanied by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs to get some relief. Individuals affected with the disorder describe the sensations as burning, tugging, or feeling like insects are crawling inside their legs. The sensations range in severity from mere discomfort to considerable pain. In contrast, fibromyalgia is a tricky condition with a varied set of symptoms. Until recently, many in the medical establishment viewed people with the condition as hypochondriacs. As with RLS, the causes are unknown. FMS symptoms include multiple tender areas (muscle and joint pain) on the back of the neck, shoulders, sternum, lower back, hips, shins, elbows, and knees; fatigue; sleep disturbances; body aches; reduced exercise tolerance; and chronic facial muscle pain or aching. About 85 percent of fibromyalgia cases occur in women.

The link between fibromyalgia and RLS was discussed in a Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study that followed 172 people suffering from fibromyaglia. Of these, 93 percent were female. This group had a mean age of 50. They were compared to a control group of 63 people who did not suffer from pain and fatigue and whose mean age was 41. The researchers found that 33 percent of the fibromyalgia group also had RLS as compared to only 3.1 percent of the control group.

Contributing author Nathaniel F. Watson, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a news release, "Sleep disruption is common in fibromyalgia and often difficult to treat. It is apparent from our study that a substantial portion of sleep disruption in fibromyalgia is due to restless legs syndrome."

The medical establishment typically treats RLS with drugs, hoping to improve sleep and thus improve the overall condition of those who also suffer from fibromyalgia. This approach dates back to a study published in 1996, which also found a connection between fibromyalgia and RLS. Back then, the suggested regimen was to prescribe the drugs clonazepam, carbamazepine, or levodopa to get the RLS under control. But these drugs are such side-effect whoppers that if you were diagnosed with RLS in the 90s, you might have been better off suffering with it. The side effects of clonazepam, for example, include drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, muscle pain, excessive hair growth or loss, change in sexual desire, weight change, increased saliva production, sore gums, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, and other mood disorders. Carbamazepine has caused rare cases of skin reactions so severe that they have been fatal. It has also caused severe reduction in bone marrow function, plus all of the side effects we just listed for clonazepam.

And then there is levodopa. According to Medicinenet.com. "Most patients receiving levodopa-carbidopa experience side effects, but these are usually reversible. Occasional involuntary movements are the most common of the serious side effects of levodopa-carbidopa therapy. These may include chewing, gnawing, twisting, tongue or mouth movements, head bobbing, or movements of the feet, hands, or shoulder." Sometimes I think doctors should have to take the drugs themselves they prescribe, but don’t get me started on that topic. In any event, it’s hard to justify taking a medicine that stops leg twitching in exchange for gnawing, gnashing, and head bobbing.

The current drugs of choice for RLS are dopaminergics, which act like the neurotransmitter dopamine. One of these is mirapex, which has a list of side effects longer than a twitching leg. Among the many delightful experiences you might have are sleepiness, nausea and vomiting, constipation, dry mouth, chest pain and compulsive behaviors. If you don’t like how that sounds, there are always the benzodiazepines, which include Valium and Xanax. Or else there are opiates like Darvon and Percodan. Of course, both of these categories are highly addictive. And finally there are the latest and greatest of the anti-convulsants, like Nuerontin and Tegretol. The latter is a carbamazepine which I mentioned above and the former has a long list of side effects that include drowsiness, dizziness, unsteadiness, fatigue, vision changes, weight gain, nausea, dry mouth, constipation, and more rarely suicidal ideation, depression, and on and on.

While RLS causes patients considerable distress, there are more benign and effective approaches to decrease or control the symptoms of this condition. As I’ve reported in the past, RLS is very responsive to dietary and lifestyle changes, detoxification, programs that balance out hormones, and massage and physical therapy. And the side benefit is that the dietary and lifestyle changes and detoxes will also help with fibromyalgia. But it should be noted that FMS is a systemic condition and can’t be effectively dealt with unless you treat it as such.

You might well ask why anyone would subject him or herself to a side-effect laden pharmaceutical approach? Partly because doctors tend to think like pharmaceutical companies when it comes to conditions like these. They ask, "What drug can I dispense to push these symptoms out of sight?" And as long as doctors think about symptoms rather than about the patients manifesting those symptoms, patients will be advised to try expensive treatments replete with side effects, rather than treatments focused on deep, systemic healing.

I probably should point out that several years ago, my wife, Kristen, developed severe RLS that totally disrupted her sleep patterns. She got significant relief when she added bio-identical estriol crème to her regimen, but it wasn’t until she added a form of deep muscle massage called BioSync that she got complete relief. From the very first session of BioSync she received, she has not had one single further incident of RLS for some five years now. And yes, she continues to get Biosync work approximately once a month. Unfortunately, BioSync is not widely available, but I would guess that any deep muscle work would prove helpful.


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    Submitted by Kathy on
    November 9, 2010 - 11:34am

    I agree that people who suffer with RLS look at life-style changes, their diet, massage therapy and physical exercise as well as the other options you mention. However, your article tends to suggest that medications are to be steered away from because doctors are looking to dispense drugs. I have suffered with RLS for most of my life. I have tried it all and way before I ever tried any medications. I have found that red wine and caffeine are to be avoided. Other than that, the other things you suggest just have not worked. As a support group leader for the RLS Foundation, I come across many, many people in the same boat. These people do not need someone to suggest that they are doing wrong by using medications in order to survive. Believe me, we have all tried everything undfer the sun. Medication is all that is left. I also tend to look as someone who is recommending something such as BioSync (and have a link to it) with a grain of salt. Usually they are getting something from the company in return for the plug. Please, RLS is serious. If your wife truly has RLS and has truly gotten complete relief, she is one of very, very few.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    November 9, 2010 - 11:35am


    When you say you tried everything under the sun, did you really try a full detoxification program that cleaned out your intestinal tract, heavy metals from the body, kidneys, liver, gallbladder, and blood? Did you use bio-identical progesterone and estriol to balance hormones, or did you use doctor prescribed synthetics? And yes, my wife truly had RLS, and truly doesn’t anymore. And we know others who have followed the protocols I outlined and have had similar results. And no, I don’t get a penny for mentioning BioSync (silly comment) any more than you get money for recommending pharmaceuticals.


    Submitted by Fran on
    November 9, 2010 - 11:36am


    Believe me, we have all tried everything undfer the sun.
    Medication is all that is left.

    Did you try doing everything under the sun “at the same time”?

    If you tried, then how long did you try?

    If you tried it for more than 3 months, and still didn’t work,
    did you try increasing the intensity?

    Did use the highest quality herbs, supplements, etc?


    Submitted by Eugene on
    November 9, 2010 - 11:37am


    Over my many years of researching the issue, I found that people who tend to have RLS and Fybromyalia are the same people who suffer from hypothyroidism.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    November 9, 2010 - 11:37am

    Hi Kathy:

    One more comment on your concern that I might receive a kickback for mentioning BioSync in my blog. As I made clear, I do not. But at the same time, I can’t help but notice your association with the RLS Foundation. We’re you aware that the largest contributors to the RLS Foundation are GlaxoSmithKline, contributing over $250,000 every year, and Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., contributing over $150,000. Check it out in the 2006 and 2007 annual reports. Unfortunately, after 2007, the Foundation no longer identifies its large corporate sponsors separately and lumps them together in the $10,000 plus category. I wonder why? So, considering that I get no money for my recommendations and the RLS Foundation gets the largest portion of its income from pharmaceutical companies, who’s recommendations should be taken with a grain of salt — mine or the RLS Foundation? And is it any wonder that they recommend using pharmaceutical drugs.

    I’m sure you weren’t aware of the intimate financial relationship between the RLS Foundation and the pharmaceutical companies, but now that you are, perhaps you’ll think a little more kindly of those of us who toil in the fields without their support.

    Submitted by Guest chris on
    January 9, 2011 - 7:00pm

    dr. russel blayock wrote a study paper on these topics indacating they
    were nurotransmiter related and that luric acid had a substancial positeve effect

    Submitted by June, Australia on
    January 20, 2012 - 9:44pm

    I had restless legs for a short while and found that a heaped teaspoon of magnesium supplement in the mornings stopped it within a week or two. I still take it every morning and have no RLS since.

    Submitted by Travis on
    July 14, 2012 - 1:57am


    I recently became a Biosync practitioner and it is encouraging to see that your wife received the tremendous benefits it has to offer! It is a powerful healing tool for trauma, both emotional and physical.


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