Fibromyalgia has quite a few sleep issues associated with it as well as the fundamental sleep dysfunction associated with the syndrome. One issue that one can have with fibromyalgia is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).
What is Restless Leg Syndrome
It is a nervous system disorder usually affecting the legs causing the urge to move them. It is considered a sleep disorder because RLS gets worse when you try to rest or sleep but can also affect you when you sit for a long time as well.
It affects up to 10% of the US population and is more common in women with people in their middle ages tending to have more severe symptoms.
People with restless legs syndrome have unusual feelings in their legs (like itching, crawling, pulling, aching, throbbing, or pins and needles) and a powerful urge to move their legs to make the sensations go away. The condition can also happen in other areas like the arms, chest, or head. The feelings usually happen on both sides of the body. They can also happen on only one side, or they might start on one side and then move to the other.WebMD
I just developed this and I had no idea what it was. I had this insane crawling, intense painful sensation in my arms and legs at night when I was trying to sleep. It made it impossible to sleep. I would try moving constantly. I would try twisting up my limbs, tightly to restrict sensation and sometimes that helped and shake my legs at the same time.
And usually I just got up. Because it drove me Up the Wall. I have no idea how one can sleep with that insanity. It is always severe. Always intense. Maybe it didn’t start that way and I never much noticed it because I get tingling from fibromyalgia but it certainly ended up that way.
Some treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome include Benzodiazepines and narcotic pain relievers, It just so happens I am on both. A slow release Tramadol for pain and a Benzodiazepines for a vertigo suppressant. And it is that Tramadol that has stopped the Restless Leg Syndrome. I have gone off it a few times when doctors want to see if a certain side effect is the Tramadol, or not, and that is when the Restless Leg Syndrome comes back with a fury. But on it, I do not experience it at all.
I didn’t even know what this was until my neurologist told me because I was unaware that RLS could affect your arms or other areas. Or be that intense.
Fibromyalgia and the Restless Leg Syndrome connection
There certainly seems to be a correlation between the two. 33% of people with fibromyalgia also have Restless Leg Syndrome compared to 3.1% who do not have fibromaylgia.
Why there is a correlation is less understood because neither Fibromyalgia or Restless Leg Syndrome are well understood conditions. However, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a leap given fibromyalgia affects the nervous system in various ways that it might lead to a condition such as RLS. The problem is fibromyalgia comes with its own sleep deficits and adding in another can lead to a great deal of compromised sleep and sleep deprivation so it is important to manage the Restless Leg Syndrome as best as one can.
Tips for Restless Leg Syndrome
In case of any nutritional deficiencies ,we want to be sure we are getting enough of the B-Complex family of vitamins, B-12 in the proper form, and magnesium (topical form is great) For B-12 in the most natural form, we like Methyl or Hydroxy form. (Avoid B12 in the form of Cynocobalamin) You can also meet with a physical therapist to learn massage techniques that are proven to relax the leg muscles to stop the activity. Alternating hot and cold can be helpful, only to tolerance of course. You may also try using an electrical stimulation device like a tens unit before bed .Living Smarter with Fibromyalgia
At home treatments of RLS
- A good and consistent sleep routine of going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time (also recommended for fibromyalgia)
- If your doctor recommends it, take iron. Iron can be linked to Restless Leg Syndrome
- Although there is little research to show it some people find benefit from B12, Folic Acid and Magnesium (Magnesium is good for fibromyalgia so that is a two for one deal there anyway)
- Heat pad or ice pack on legs before bed… a change in temperature may help, one way, or the other
- A hot bath. I would recommend Epsom salts in there as well
- Mild exercise during the day such as walks and stretches
- Stress relief techniques such as yoga or meditation
- Electrical stimulation device use before bed which you will have to ask your doctor about.
Medications for RLS
- Dopamine agonists: Are a common treatment for RLS and act like dopamine in the brain
- Dopaminergic agents: These increase levels of dopamine in the brain
- Benzodiazepines: (Such as Konopin which as I mentioned I am on as a vestibular suppresent) These are used to help you sleep through the symptoms
- Opiates: Often used for pain but can also relieve the RLS symptoms (As I mentioned Tramadol relieves my symptoms immensely even though that is not why I am on it)
- Anticonvulsants: Such as Lyrica, which may help relieve symptoms (coincidentally when I was on Lyrica I didn’t have these symptoms or to the point it was notable.)