For years, people with restless leg syndrome (RLS) tried to describe their experience as a creepy-crawly feeling under the skin, or a kind of tugging or gnawing in the muscle. Some people called it jumpy legs because the sensations are eased only when they move their legs. The condition is most noticeable when someone is sitting still or lying down. RLS may be accompanied by periodic limb movement in sleep. In this condition, muscles twitch or jerk (every minute, or even several times a minute) all night long and disturb sleep. Prescription drugs can help ease RLS, but side effects such as daytime sleepiness (with potential accidents for drivers) have many sufferers looking for home remedies.
Last summer you ran a letter from a woman who reported that gin-soaked raisins had helped both her arthritis and her restless leg syndrome (RLS). Mercifully, I don’t have arthritis, but I do have RLS, so I’ve been trying this remedy after dinner ever since. I am most happy to report that those silly little raisins have gone a long way towards moderating the problem for me. I can once again watch a few hours of TV in the evening without wanting to crawl out of my skin. It’s usually a lot easier to fall asleep as well. Oh, joy!
We have been writing about gin-soaked raisins since 1994. We have no idea why some people find them so helpful for arthritis pain. Last July we received this letter from a reader: “I read about your home remedy of white raisins soaked in gin to help arthritis pain. I tried this and found only a moderate improvement in arthritis pain. But after two weeks of treatment I noticed a marked improvement in RLS. Have others reported this seeming cure? I used to experience RLS two or three times a week, but have not had a recurrence since beginning the gin and white raisin treatment.”
For a long time I had trouble keeping my legs still, especially while I was trying to sleep at night. I did not seek treatment because I did not want to take medication. Then I read an article that said one of the health conditions causing this was an iron deficiency. My cousin told me she was taking iron twice a day and it helped ease her restless legs. My husband was taking iron pills for a deficiency, so I borrowed a few and tried them. I could tell a difference within two days. I am grateful for such an easy remedy.
Research has linked iron deficiency to RLS. Correcting this mineral deficiency may help ease the symptoms.1
I have severe RLS, but it has been controlled with diazepam. Recently the doctor diagnosed me with an underactive thyroid condition and prescribed levothyroxine. It really made my RLS worse. He suggested that I stop the thyroid medicine for three weeks to see what happened. It took a full week to get my RLS back under control. I am worried now about the doctor insisting I take levothyroxine for my thyroid condition. Is there anything I can take instead? I absolutely cannot live with my severe RLS. It affects my whole body, not just my legs, and even affects me mentally.
We discovered a case report in the medical literature that parallels your experience. The person was deficient in iron, and thyroid supplementation made the creepy-crawly sensations and limb movements worse.2 Perhaps your doctor can check your iron levels to see if you need a supplement. Untreated hypothyroidism is associated with a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including mental sluggishness, depression, and confusion. It can cause high cholesterol, constipation, fatigue, swollen hands or feet, and weakness, among other problems.
I started getting muscle movements in my legs in the mornings while lying in bed. It wasn’t restless leg syndrome because I did not feel like I had to move my legs. I just had an unusual feeling of muscles moving under the skin. I heard a discussion on the radio about this that suggested using magnesium. I’ve started taking 1,000 milligrams before bed, and though it doesn’t stop it, it does minimize the discomfort somewhat. Is 1,000 milligrams of magnesium a day too much?
Research suggests that magnesium may be helpful in easing restless leg syndrome.3 Your body will let you know if you are taking too much magnesium. In excess, this mineral causes diarrhea. For most people, 300 milligrams a day or so is tolerable, but 1,000 milligrams would not be. People with kidney problems should avoid any supplemental magnesium, as it could put too much strain on the kidneys.
Source Credits: Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic