10 yoga poses and 10 tips for Restless Legs Syndrome

October 8, 2014

Did you know that approximately one in six middle aged women will experience restless leg syndrome? Being a woman enroute to middle age-dom, I dont really appreciate those odds!

We don’t really understand what’s going on with RLS, but we have concluded through observation and statistics that there are some predisposing factors. While there are some intrinsic factors, such as genetics, varicose veins, diabetes and lung disease, that predispose us there are also some extrinsic factors that we have some control over.

Some things you may not have a lot of control over, like taking anti-depressant and anti-psychotic drugs, but it can still help to understand what may be causing your symptoms. Other drugs that you may not rely on every day but take as needed are also thought to be factors, such as anti-histamines and anti-nauseates.

Iron deficiency could also be playing a part, so getting your ferritin levels checked can help you figure out where this is coming from.

So… what are things you can do to reduce the extrinsic factors, the things well within your control?

1) Get active!
Obesity and sedentary lifestyle are thought to aggravate RLS symptoms. If it’s been a while since you’ve exercised regularly then take your time getting back into it. You may be sore at first, but sticking with an exercise program that gradually increases to a moderate intensity could make all the difference. Good options include low impact exercises like yoga (see the video), swimming, cycling and brisk walking.

2) Check your iron!
Iron deficiency, anemia, is believed to be a factor in RLS. It’s best to try to get as much heme (animal source – oysters, clams, scallops, fish, dark meat poultry, and red meat) and non-heme (vegetable and grain source – beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, bread) iron directly from the your food as possible, but if necessary talk to your doctor or naturopath about taking supplements. Iron absorbs better with vitamin C so make sure you include citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, more dark leafy greens, bell peppers and tomatoes in your diet!

3) Eat vitamins and minerals!
Magnesium, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and B vitamins all work together to regulate contraction and relaxation of your muscles. Great food sources of these vitamins and minerals are oysters, clams, scallops, lean red meat, dark-meat poultry, fish, eggs, dairy (yogurt, cheese), dark leafy greens, beans, nuts and seeds, avocado, sweet potato, squash, mushrooms, potato, carrots, bananas, tomato sauce, grains (pasta, bread, oats).

4) Reduce dietary risks!
Excessive alcohol, sugar and caffeine may all play a part in your RLS, not to mention other health risks we all already know about. These won’t hurt you in moderation, just take an honest look at whether or not you might be stretching the definition of “moderation” and cut back where necessary.

5) Stop smoking!
I know, not that easy of an addiction to kick. We all know why we shouldn’t be smoking, preventing RLS is just one of many. Enough said.

6) Drink plenty of water!
There is one theory that RLS can be triggered by poor circulation to the legs. There could be several different factors affecting your circulation, and dehydration is one of them! The more active you are and the hotter and drier the climate you live in the more water you will need to drink. I know some people dislike the plainness of water, try these 5 delicious ways to make your water more fun to drink!

7) Get 8 hours of sleep!
All health relies on getting adequate sleep, and believe it or not the 6 hours you probably function on is not enough. It doesn’t matter if you’re an early bird or a night owl, introduce a regular bedtime and nightly routine that fits your lifestyle. Stick to this routine and bedtime like clockwork until it becomes a desired habit that you can’t break. Being more rested will soon start to pay dividends in greater energy and hopefully reduced RLS symptoms.

8) Keep your feet warm!
Some researchers have noted a link between cold feet in bed and RLS, which is a great excuse to buy yourself some cute and cozy bed socks! A heating pad can add to the cozy factor, also encouraging circulation to the extremities. Also make sure you wear loose pyjamas (if you wear any) and untuck or tuck loosely the sheets. If your feet and toes feel pinched or restricted your calf muscles could contract and cramp.

9) Reduce your stress levels!
Studies show that there is a correlation between those who feel more stress in their life and those who suffer from RLS. Ok, stress is a normal part of life, but let’s face it: most of us have more stress in our lives than is necessary and we could all benefit from learning new ways to manage the stress that is inevitably going to spring itself at us at some point. A shift in your thinking patterns about daily challenges and an increase in your personal resistance can help you to turn around your stress over time. Not sure where to start? There are some great books out there about stress management, yoga or tai chi is relaxing movement therapy, and meditation, breathing exercises, or seeing a counsellor can also help.

10) Soften your landing!
Hard floors in the house can harm legs, feet, knees and your back through constant jolts as you walk around. Try wearing slippers or indoor shoes, or cover your floors with wall-to-wall carpeting or large rugs in high traffic areas. And please make sure your outdoor shoes are supportive and appropriate! This excludes calf-enhancing high-heels I’m afraid. Being comfortable when standing and walking will reduce stress levels, and provide better support and circulation.