Restless Leg Syndrome

Some patients complain of “restless legs,” causing the legs to twitch and jump shortly after retiring to bed at night. It may be associated with vague sensory changes. The bed partner complains more frequently than the patient.

The cause is unknown. Some claim it is due to oxygen lack to the lower limbs occasioned by the recumbent position, sluggish blood flow, and probably partial venous obstruction due to vascular disease and advancing years. The benzodiazepenes are often prescribed. Calcium and quinine are given, the latter being successful for nocturnal cramps by reducing muscle-fibre spasm.

Some doctors suggest reducing pressure on the limbs by using only light bedclothes or, in winter weather, preventing the clothing from resting on the limbs, so inhibiting normal free blood circulation.

This may be easily done by placing old clothing into a pillowcase, and placing this at the centre of the foot of the bed, so elevating bedclothes slightly. It is often very successful. Alternatively, a wire frame (or half a circular bird cage) is also often effective. Some claim lower limb massage (from feet to body), hot and cold packs, thumping the limbs with the sides of the hand or closed fists also improves circulation and reduces symptoms.