By no means am I an expert or a medical doctor, but I always like to encourage my clients to ask me any wellness related questions that they may have. If I do not know much about the topic or have any good quick advice, I will take the time to look it up and do some research to read up on the subject. I find it fascinating and educational. Needless to say, I actually enjoy it and love having a new topic to write about for you to read.
This past month, one of my clients asked me what I knew about Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and more naturopathic ways of treating it. I am familiar with RLS, but not the treatments or remedies for it. So I decided to look into it.
Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder that is usually characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. Symptoms occur primarily at night when a person is relaxing or at rest and can increase in severity during the night. Moving the legs relieves the discomfort. Also, since the symptoms often interrupt sleeping, keeping one awake or waking them up in the middle of the night, it often gets categorized as a sleep disorder. RLS can occur in both men and women, although the incidence is about twice as high in women. It may begin at any age, but most individuals who are severely affected are middle-aged or older, and the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer with age.
There is no real answer as to why RLS occurs, and there are some medications that doctors can prescribe you to help with the symptoms, however, many researchers believe that some simple lifestyle changes may help.
The first most suggested change is in your diet. Eating healthy, well-balanced meals are important, as is reducing or eliminating caffeine and alcohol. All will help promote better sleep at night. Also, ask your doctor if you are deficient in any vitamins or minerals, as you may need to take some supplements to help increase your daily intake. RLS has been linked to deficiencies in iron, folate, magnesium, vitamins C and E, and a few studies even include vitamin D.
The next common change you can make is in regards to any medications you may be taking, whether it is daily medications, seasonal, or a sporadic medication, all can cause your RLS symptoms. If you are taking any medications, check with your doctor to make sure that none of them have side effects that could be causing your symptoms. If you are taking over the counter (OTC) medications, look at their ingredients to make sure they do not have any stimulants. Some cold medications and allergy pills may contain mild stimulants that can result in jittery legs. If what you are taking does, ask the pharmacist if there is a non-stimulant alternative that you can try instead.
Stretching and moving.
Another change is to make sure you include exercise into your daily routines. According to the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation, people with RLS who exercise daily for 30 to 60 minutes report less fatigue, less symptoms, and better sleep habits. When RLS occurs, movement helps to alleviate it. Walking at a moderate pace daily and doing some stretches for your calves, hamstrings, and gluteal (butt) muscles before bedtime will help reduce restless legs. Incorporating Yoga is another great exercise that also helps stretch your muscles and reduces your stress levels. If RLS does occur while you are lying down, get up and walk around, do some stretches, and even massage your legs and feet to help manage it.
In conjunction of these lifestyle changes, there are a plethora of other remedies that people with RLS have claimed to help. Changing your temperature can have a great effect on your symptoms. Taking a warm bath, using hot and/or cold packs on your legs, or dipping your feet in cool water, can help reduce pain. If your feet are cold, try wearing socks to bed. Some experts have found that a lot of people who suffer from restless legs syndrome also seem to have cold feet. I am not sure if this is a coincidence or not, as there has not been any studies on this connection, but it might not hurt to try and keep your feet nice and toasty at night. Massages have been proven to not only help relax your muscles, but also to help de-stress you as well. Massaging, drinking chamomile teas, inhaling lavender or another soothing smell, all have calming and relaxing effects to help you get a better night’s sleep and help prevent RLS.
If you experience RLS, give some these remedies a try and see what works for you. Hopefully between the lifestyle changes and some of the do-it-yourself remedies, you can help prevent or at least reduce your RLS symptoms.
Let me know what works for you!
Headaches are a common complaint by just about everyone. In my last blog, I wrote about how stretching can help reduce and prevent a lot of neck pain and headaches. Tense and sore muscles that are too tight are not the only common source for headaches though. Dehydration can cause headaches, too. If you stop and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. First, your body is made up of about 70% water and your brain is about 90% water. Then think about what happens to your muscles when you are dehydrated. They tighten and cramp up, right? So if you are dehydrated and your brain is not getting enough water, what is happening? Your brain is contracting and compressing, which leads to the pressure and pain that you associate with a headache.
So how do you know how much water you should be drinking to help prevent headaches and dehydration? That is somewhat subjective. Everyone is different, as our bodies widely vary. No two people are exactly the same. To tell a 5’2”, 115 pound female that she should be consuming the same amount of water each day as her 6 foot, 285 pound male counterpart does not sound reasonable. So the general statement of consuming eight 8 ounce glasses of water a day is too broad and generalized to work for everyone. Some suggest a more realistic version of it by saying to take your weight in pounds and divide that number in half, and that number is how many ounces you should drink each day. As a better, more individualized guideline, pay attention to how you are feeling and your urine. If you feel thirsty, fatigued, foggy headed, getting muscle cramps, headaches, or have dry skin, you probably need to consume more water. If your urine is not clear or very pale yellow, then you should drink more water. When your urine is bright yellow, it means that you do not have enough water in your system to flush out your body’s waste materials.
Does the thought of constantly drinking water all day sound daunting to you? I will let you in on how I help keep myself hydrated and what my water consumption throughout the day looks like. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated does not need to be a difficult or daunting task. This is what I do for most days:
If you do not care for the taste of plain water, try adding fresh slices of fruit into your water. A lemon or lime slice is very common, but a slice of orange, cucumber, a sprig of mint, or even some fresh berries or a few small chunks of watermelon can add a nice little flavor to your water while still keeping it healthy. Caffeine-free teas are another great way to consume water with some flavor. Try to avoid anything with added sugars, carbonation, and caffeine, as they will all aid in dehydrating you.
The main point to helping you stay hydrated is to keep water nearby at all times and drink it frequently. If you ever feel thirsty, you are dehydrated. If you keep yourself well hydrated, you will find that you may have fewer headaches, if any at all. You may even feel more energized, can think more clearly, have healthier looking skin, and get sick less often. Just some of the many benefits of staying hydrated!
Cheers to consuming water and preventing those nasty headaches!
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.