Restless Legs cartoon

A while back my wife Eve mentioned to a friend that I’ve got Restless Legs Syndrome.  His response was to laugh.  And he kept laughing for a while.  It struck him as funny. And he’s not the first person that has had that reaction.  Since it’s very difficult to describe the symptoms, and they don’t sound, on the surface, as if they are a big issue, it’s sometime hard to see RLS as a real problem.  But for me it’s a nasty and extremely uncomfortable part of my day to day life.  I’m extremely grateful to whoever it was  worked out how to treat it.  The treatment isn’t perfect, but it helps a lot.

My description of the symptoms, which is no better that anyone else’s, is that it’s like the tingling you feel on your skin when someone strokes you so softly you can hardly feel it.  Take that feeling and imagine it’s deep in your muscles under your skin.  Then imagine it getting strong.  Very strong.  In my case not really painful, but very very intense – way too intense to be pleasurable.  So intense that I am unable to ignore it.  Sometimes it’s just in my legs in the evening.  Sometimes it’s my arms, shoulders and legs all day long.  When it’s happening I can’t sit still for a television show, a play or a movie.  I thrash around in bed and often have to get up and move around.  It’s hard to read.  It’s impossible to be still.  It’s not fun.

I take a drug called sifrol.  It takes a couple of hours, but it usually works to settle my muscles down.  I’ve recently had to up my dose.

Big Pharma conspiracists and even parts of the mainstream medical profession consider that the promotion of medication for restless legs is a case of disease mongering by the pharmaceutical companies.

A textbook example of disease mongering by the pharmaceutical industry is the case of Requip for Restless Leg Syndrome.
via Jeffrey Dach MD Bio-Identical Hormone Blog: Restless Leg Syndrome, Requip and Disease Mongering by Jeffrey Dach MD.

Jeffrey Dach contends that the condition known as RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) is simply the result of magnesium deficiency.  I think he came to this conclusion because of reports that one possible effect of magnesium deficiency is restless legs.  But my experience with magnesium supplementation was not successful.  And when you research the condition it appears that it’s not quite that simple.

Although many think of primary RLS as a disease of the peripheral nervous system, studies suggest that the central nervous system may also be involved. Because RLS is akin to some other movement disorders the neurotransmitter dopamine, which helps facilitate uniform, controlled movements, has been theorized to be a possible causative factor.
via Restless Legs Syndrome – 2 – Life Extension Health Concern.

There are a range of lifestyle suggestions that can, in some cases, help: cutting back on coffee and alcohol, hot baths, well timed stretching, magnesium supplements, iron supplements, yoga and mediation.  I’ve tried most of these.  I know that the antidepressant medication I take can worsen RLS, so  I cut that out for a couple of years.  I can’t say I’ve tried all of the suggestions at the same time.  I don’t know if a combination of lifestyle changes can help or not.  I don’t know if taking sifrol every day makes things worse in the long run.  I do know that the symptoms are getting worse.

If RLS is the result of disease mongering by the drug companies, I’m Ok with that because it has meant that new treatments have become available.  I’m grateful for any help I can get.