How many of us have had someone ask, “Can’t you sit still?” Sadly, for many of us in the world, we truly can’t. For some, it’s just shear hyperactivity, but for others, it’s a troublesome medical condition called RLS.
For those of you unfamiliar, RLS stands for Restless-Leg Syndrome. Many doctors still deny the existence of RLS even though an estimated millions of people suffer from it. RLS is difficult to describe to those who do not suffer from it but this comes close:
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder…People with restless legs syndrome have uncomfortable sensations in their legs (and sometimes arms or other parts of the body) and an irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations. The condition causes an uncomfortable, “itchy,” “pins and needles,” or “creepy crawly” feeling in the legs. The sensations are usually worse at rest, especially when lying or sitting. —WebMD
Living with it
I have suffered from RLS most of my life with the worst of it being the past few years. Although no consensus, there is some evidence that neurological disorders such as migraines can exacerbate the problem. I can attest to this as my RLS has become nearly uncontrollable the last few years–as my migraines have worsened. The last 8 months have been nearly unbearable for me as I have found very little comfort. Several times a day, I have to get up and walk half a mile or more to calm the legs down. Sitting through a church service, play, movie is nearly impossible as my legs become a nuisance not only to me but others around me. Even a “short” drive to Indianapolis has become difficult as I can not sit that long.
Living with RLS sometimes feels like an unending nightmare. RLS causes a drastic shortage of sleep and rest which only worsens the situation. When I don’t sleep, my RLS gets worse and when the RLS gets worse, I don’t sleep. In 2016, I have averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night.
Because the medical community cannot even agree on the existence of this disorder, treatments are even harder to come by. At this point, I have tried nearly everything recommended:
- Soap under the sheets at the foot of the bed
- Drink more water
- Drink less (or no) caffeine
- Moderate exercise – It is not uncommon for me to spend 2 hours a night walking around the yard, the house, etc.
- Avoid “screens” before bedtime
- Calcium, magnesium, potassium supplements
- Sleeping pills. (I currently take 2 to put me to sleep and another to keep me asleep–with moderate relief)
- Other dietary changes
- CPAP machine adjustments
- etc, etc, etc
I could spend hours, days, weeks or months trying and researching other treatment options, but the longer this persists, the harder it is to be patient. So, I will be seeing a second neurologist about the RLS. I believe that there is a link between the RLS and my migraines, but my degree in economics has not prepared me to find that link! I don’t know what they will find, but anything has to be better than this.
To finish, I would like to apologize in advance if my restlessness annoys you, but this is why. I try to contain it, try to get through it, try to be “normal”. Unfortunately, there is only so much can do. So, please don’t be offended if I get up and walk around while you’re talking to me. Don’t get too annoyed if I “walk out” during a performance or church service or event. Please just try to be patient with me and others like me.