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Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless legs syndrome leads to higher risk of dying early
Men with restless legs syndrome (RLS) may end up dying earlier than those without it. According to research published in a June 2013 online issue of Neurology, men who experience restless legs syndrome had a nearly 40 percent increased risk of death compared with men without it.
This study was carried out by Harvard Medical School in the USA. It is estimated that RLS affects 5 percent to 10 percent of adults across the USA, according to study author Dr. Xiang Gao. The figures for the UK are much the same.
The study found that the the increased risk was not associated with the usual known risk factors such as older age, being overweight, lack of sleep, smoking, being physically inactive and having an unhealthy diet.
Dr. Chris Hammond, an American specialist in sleep medicine, said that researchers involved in the study and others in the field do not understand why there may be an increase in mortality in the male population.
"However, there is research interest into the mechanisms of RLS, and one thought based on the dopamine connection is there could be an underlying neurodegenerative disorder at hand," he said.
What is RLS?
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The disease is characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping or other bothersome sensations in the legs.
Sometimes people have an uncontrollable, overwhelming urge to move their legs. The symptoms primarily occur at night when a person is trying to relax. Lying down often activates the symptoms. This causes a disruption in sleep, often leading to daytime drowsiness.
"Many express tightness and feel their legs are like a rubber band twisted so tight that it has to be released," Hammond said. "The hallmark of RLS that may distinguish this condition from others is that there is a release of these feelings when the limbs are moved. Walking or stretching at least gives a temporary sense of relief."
There is some research that shows that RLS is linked to levels of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, and this leads to treatment with drugs such as levodopa (a medication used to treat Parkinson's disease). But many of these medications have troublesome side effects and many patients prefer not to take them.
Can you do anything that avoids taking drugs?
The treatment of RLS is a speciality of this practice. Most patients (3 out of 4) will be helped greatly by 4 sessions of gentle manipulation using a highly specific approach. Even patients with severe symptoms can get substantial relief, and this relief is lasting and there is no need to take any medication. Some patients also appear to have problems with other muscles, such as piriformis, and releasing tension in this muscle can lead to a substantial improvement in RLS. Click here to read about piriformis syndrome.
If the response is slow or not satisfactory then we may add in acupuncture or electroacupuncture.
There have been a couple of small research studies which have shown how effective the specific manipulation for RLS can be. One study was recently completed at the London College of Osteopathic Medicine Clinic in London and was published in the medical journal International Musculoskeletal Medicine.
Dr Monk is one of a handful of doctors in the UK who have learnt this specific form of manipulation from Dr Doug Longden, the doctor who originally developed it.
Download our PDF on Restless Legs here
Peters T. Restless legs. Osteopathy Today. 2002; 8(8): 12-3.
MacDonald R, Peters T, Leach J. A randomised controlled trial of positional release manipulation (counterstrain) in the treatment of restless legs syndrome. International Musculoskeletal Medicine. 2011; 33 (1): 2125.