What is RLS restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) has not a know cause, however, recent findings link it go genetic predisposition. This means that if you have relatives with restless legs, you are more likely to experience it as well.

As a secondary symptom, restless legs are associated with conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy (any damage or disease of the nerves that impairs sensation, movement or gland function depending on which nerves are affected).

Restless legs syndrome is a condition where there is an uncomfortable feeling (itching, pulling, twitching, creepy crawly sensations) in the legs, and an incredible urge to move those legs. The symptoms are often worse at night or when relaxed.

5 – 10% of the adult population in Australia could be affected by it. The conditions is more typical in adults older than 45 years of age, but both females and males are equally affected.

 

How do we differentiate RLS in Chinese medicine?

In Chinese medicine, we associate restless legs with several patterns. To establish the pattern, we will be taking other aspects of your physiology into consideration and will also check out and relate other symptoms.

As basis of our diagnosis there is always yin and yang, Excess and deficiency, interior or exterior. In general, it’s often a combination of several factors. Once, we have found the pattern, we will treat endeavor to restore balance by addressing that pattern. Theoretically, this will resolve the restless legs.

Example of patterns in restless legs syndrome:

Qi & blood deficiency

If vital substances of the body are lacking or are deficient, physiological function will be impaired. In the case of restless legs, the aspect of blood (not flowing harmoniously around physical structures of the body) will be playing a major role. Blood deficiency doesn’t necessarily mean that blood is physically lacking but blood is not nourishing in the right place at the right time.

In todays societies of stress and ongoing pressure and tension, coupled with sub-optimal diet and a balanced lifestyle, it’s easy to run out of juice (qi and blood)!

With this pattern, the symptoms will most likely be intermittent and will be aggravated when feeling more tired.

 

Blood stasis blocking channels and collaterals

Once blood deficiency has been present for some time, the blood becomes stagnant, as the body is no longer able to overcome the deficiency. Hence the sensations will be more constant and stronger, perhaps more stabbing and intense pain and discomfort each time you sit or rest. This pattern might be more predominant the elderly patients as naturally, the blood becomes weaker later in life.

 

Coldness and dampness blocking the meridians

If there is more heaviness or a distending sensation, twitching and a legs that are cold to touch, it could be caused by damp obstruction. In this case, the symptoms will be aggravated by too much cold or damp/phlegm producing (acidic) food such as dairy, sweets, meats and uncooked food.

 

Dampness combined with heat in the lower part of the body

If there is more burning and perhaps swelling with your legs, you could suffer from damp-heat obstruction of the lower burner. This means, that dampness and heat have combined in the lower part of the body which will block the meridians and prevent the blood and qi from flowing uninterruptedly.

Once we have established the pattern that causes your restless legs syndrome, we will apply treatment (acupuncture and/or herbal medicines and or Tui Na massage). This will improve the quality of your sleep and most likely increase your health in general.

 

References:

http://aim.bmj.com/content/early/2011/06/22/acupmed-2011-010039

http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/343201/

http://theconversation.com/explainer-what-is-restless-leg-syndrome-56140

http://www.rls.org.au/

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/exam/restless_leg_syndrome_treating.html

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