What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Another name for restless leg syndrome is Willis-Ekbom Disease. This condition triggers distracting sensations in the legs when a person is at rest. The condition, also known as RLS, is considered a sleep disorder because it is more severe at night, or when a person tries to sleep. People who have RLS often must move their legs to alleviate the symptoms.
RLS is also linked to daytime drowsiness and therefore can affect a person’s mood, focus, and school or job performance. Many people with RLS report that they have problems with concentration and find some things hard to remember. About 10% of the US adult population has this condition. While it appears in both men and women, women suffer from RLS more often.
The condition, which can appear at any age, appears more frequently in people who are middle age or older.
Over 80% of the people with RLS experience periodic limb movement of sleep or PLMS. PLMS is triggered by involuntary leg movements when a person is resting. These movements usually happen every 30 to 40 seconds during a rest period.
While you can develop PLMS if you have restless leg syndrome, you will not develop RLS if you already have PLMS. Fortunately, most people who have RLS can take care of the condition by using therapies that do not involve drugs, One effective treatment option is to use one of a number of essential oil.
Signs and Symptoms
People with RLS feel an urge to move, which is accompanied by a distracting sensation in the lower limbs of the legs. These sensations may include throbbing, aching, itching, crawling, or pulling. The sensations may affect the arms or sometimes the head or chest. Sensations can range from annoying to painful.
The main feature associated with RLS is a worsening of symptoms at night. The patient is normally symptom-free during the early part of the morning. Because of the sensations, many people have difficulty sleeping at night or staying asleep. The symptoms can vary during the week in both frequency and severity.
If you have RLS, along with a medical condition, your symptoms will usually be more severe and will develop quickly. Otherwise, people without a medical condition experience a slower progression of the condition.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome
In most of the reported cases of RLS, the causes are unknown. However, RLS does have a genetic component and is frequently found in families where the symptoms appear before 40 years of age. Research evidence also shows that lower levels of iron in the brain can trigger RLS.
A great deal of research evidence suggests that RLS is associated to a dysfunction in one of the brain regions that control movement. This region is known as the basal ganglia. This area uses dopamine for producing smooth muscle movement. Disruption in the dopamine pathways can lead to RLS.
RLS appears to be related to the following conditions or factors:
- Iron deficiencies.
- The administration of certain medicines, such as anti-nausea drugs, antipsychotic drugs, or antidepressants. Some cold and allergy medicines that contain antihistamines, such as sertraline or diphenhydramine, can cause an RLS disorder too.
- The consumption of nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol.
- Pregnancy, especially the final trimester. Symptoms normally disappear within a month after delivery.
- Nerve damage or neuropathy.
- Sleep apnea or any other form of sleep deprivation can also cause RLS.
Some Facts about Restless Leg Syndrome
RLS is diagnosed when the patient experiences an overwhelming need to move the legs when sensations that are abnormal and uncomfortable develop. This type of urgency worsens during inactivity or rest. When the patient exercises or walks, the urge to move the legs is relieved to a great extent. The need to move the legs is the worst at night.
RLS is treated with the focus on alleviating the symptoms. That is why being active and increasing your levels of movement is advocated. Some of the symptoms are controlled by diagnosing and treating a related medical condition, such as diabetes, iron deficiency, or peripheral neuropathy.
While iron supplementation can help ease the symptoms, no single commercial medicine manages RLS. Any medication that is prescribed can lose its effectiveness with use. This can worsen the condition or make it necessary to switch medicines.
To lessen the discomfort of RLS, lifestyle changes help. Patients who decrease their use of tobacco or alcohol or work at maintaining a regular pattern of sleep do find some success. Massages or taking a warm bath at night will lessen the discomfort of RLS.
Certain medical devices have been endorsed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to relieve symptoms of RLS. These devices include a foot wrap and a pad that sends vibrations to the backs of the legs.
Leg stretching and aerobic exercises that are moderate in nature assist in relieving RLS symptoms.
Any patient with low amounts of iron in their system find relief from RLS in the form of supplementation. If supplementation does not improve the condition, the patient may look for a cure through dopaminergic agents or drugs that increase the dopamine in the body.
Essential Oils for Restless Leg Syndrome
A number of essential oils can be used to relieve restless leg syndrome. Many essential oils have analgesic, antispasmodic, anti-neuralgic and calming and sedative properties that can help relieve the symptoms of the condition.
Essential oils also have warming properties when they are applied topically. This helps relax the muscles and is great for treating muscle aches, pain and spasms.
The following essential oils are some of the best for treating restless leg syndrome.
Peppermint Essential Oil
This oil is an analgesic and antispasmodic and it is considered an excellent remedy for RLS. You can use the oil by massaging it into the leg or adding it to a cold compress. You can also use this oil in a massage oil on its own or by mixing two drops of this oil with an equal amount of another oil like rosemary essential oil or lavender essential oil.
You should not apply essential oils to your skin undiluted and peppermint essential oil is especially concentrated so make sure you dilute it well in a carrier oil like olive oil, coconut oil or jojoba oil.
Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is both an analgesic and antispasmodic. It is good for alleviating muscle pains, aches, and spasms. The calming oil lifts the mood and supports deep relaxation. This oil can be used to treat restless leg syndrome, as well as the insomnia that many people with the syndrome experience.
A study published in 2015 looked at the effects of lavender oil applied as a massage in hemodyalisis patients with restless leg syndrome. The results were very encouraging. the researchers concluded that massage with lavender essential oil was effective in improving restless leg syndrome in the participants. They suggested that it could be used as an effective therapy long-term for people with restless leg syndrome. (1)
You can use the diluted oil to treat your symptoms on its own. Alternatively, try blending four drops of lavender essential oil with two drops of vetiver essential oil.
For insomnia, blend four drops of lavender essential oil with two drops of sweet orange essential oil. Alternatively, just add a few drops of lavender oil to your pillow before going to bed and you should drop off more easily and have a better quality of sleep.
Marjoram Essential Oil
Marjoram essential oil is known for its analgesic, antispasmodic, and sedative properties. The oil is used for relieving muscle pains, aches, and spasms.
This soothing and comforting oil is often added to a warm bath for instant muscle relaxation. Add four or five drops of marjoram essential oil to your bathwater along with a few drops of vetiver and lavender essential oil.
If you want to create a massage blend, add four drops of marjoram essential oil with two teaspoons of a carrier oil.
Vetiver Essential Oil
This oil is an antispasmodic and is known for its sedative qualities. It is considered an excellent pain reliever for the muscles. Vetiver essentially stimulates blood flow and calms the nerves. It is considered one of the most effective essential oils for RLS relief. You can use this oil as a blend in either the bath or for a massage.
If you use the oil in the bath, mix two drops of vetiver essential oil with four drops of sandalwood essential oil. For the massage blend, mix two drops of vetiver oil with four drops of lavender essential oil and and a suitable carrier oil.
Roman Chamomile Essential Oil
Roman chamomile essential oil is prized for its calming effects but it also has excellent anti-spasmodic properties as well as the ability to soothe the symptoms of neuralgia. These properties combine to make it a great choice for people with restless leg syndrome.
Massaging the oil into the legs can help reduce pain and inflammation while it may also help promote a better night of sleep. Simply dilute your Roman chamomile oil with the carrier oil of your choice and massage it into your legs every night. To help get over your sleeping troubles, try inhaling the oil directly or diffusing it in your bedroom at night.
Frankincense Essential Oil
Frankincense essential oil has outstanding anti-inflammatory properties and can help relax the muscles and combat discomfort and pain. It is effective because of the way it blocks leukotrienes which cause the body’s inflammatory response.
Not only can frankincense oil relax the muscles but it also has mild sedative effects which can help relax your mind and ease the stresses of the day.
Simply dilute a few drops of frankincense essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it into your legs as part of your bedtime routine.
Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger essential oil is another wonderful oil for muscle aches, pain and inflammation. This oil has excellent analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-neuralgic properties making it a wonderful choice for muscular aches and pains as well as helping to relieve restless leg syndrome.
Dilute your ginger essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it into your legs and you should notice your symptoms improve considerable.
Jasmine Essential Oil
Who doesn’t love the scent of fresh jasmine flowers? Well, the good news is that jasmine does not only smell good, the flowers are also harvested to produce an amazing essential oil with a wide range of health benefits.
Jasmine essential oil has excellent antispasmodic and analgesic properties that combine to relieve muscle aches and pains and may well help relieve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Black Pepper Essential Oil
Black pepper essential oil is as warming and soothing as you would imagine an oil from this spicy plant to be. It has powerful antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties making it a great option for people suffering with muscle aches and pains.
When you massage the oil into your legs, you will feel a penetrating warmth that is just perfect for people suffering from restless leg syndrome. Just make sure that you dilute it with a suitable base oil before applying it to your skin.
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil is yet another oil with the antispasmodic and analgesic properties needed to combat muscle aches, spasms and pain felt by people with restless leg syndrome.
Again make sure that you dilute your rosemary essential oil with your chosen carrier oil before applying it to your skin.
Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil has outstanding antispasmodic actions that make it a great choice for dealing with muscle aches, spasms and pain.
Dilute your basil essential oil with a carrier oil and massage it into your legs before bed and you should feel your symptoms improving.
Clove Essential Oil
Clove oil is not among the most popular essential oils but one of my personal favorites. It has excellent antispasmodic, analgesic and anti-neuralgic properties which make it a great choice for people with muscle aches or pains.
Clove essential oil also helps improve the flow of blood through the body making it a great natural remedy for people with restless leg syndrome.
How to Use Essential Oils to Treat Restless Leg Syndrome
Essential oils can be used for restless leg syndrome either alone or by adding them to other essential oils and massaging them into the legs before bed.
Always make sure that you dilute your essential oil with a suitable base oil before applying the oil to your body. They may also be used in a warm or cold compress. You can also blend the oils and add them to the bath.
If you want to relieve insomnia, simply add a few drops of lavender or Roman chamomile essential oils to your pillowcase or bed sheet and you should get a much better night of sleep.
Selecting the Right Carrier Oil
Carrier oils that are used to dilute essential oils are available in many forms including jojoba oil, papaya seed oil, or pumpkin seed oil. You can also get good results from olive oil or argan oil. Regardless of your choice, make sure you choose a premium quality oil.
If you have restless leg syndrome, you could do far worse than using an essential oil blend that will calm the spasms and pain that you are experiencing. Two of the top oils used for this purpose are lavender essential oil and vetiver essential oil.
All of the oils mentioned in this article can be extremely effective but lavender essential oil and vetiver essential oil have the added bonus of calming the nerves and overcoming insomnia.
You do not have to take prescription medications to relieve the condition. Once you familiarize yourself with essential oils, you may find they calm the spasms and pain that are brought on by this uncomfortable condition while also helping your mind rest.
Have you ever used an essential oil to treat restless leg syndrome? Please let us know which oil or oils you used and whether or not they were effective.