If you’ve ever had an itch that just had to be scratched, you have an inkling of what one in 10 Americans who have restless leg syndrome deal with night after night. Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs. The condition is caused by disruptions in the electrical activity of the nervous system. The itchy, tingling, “creepy-crawly” symptoms, which provoke an overwhelming urge to move the legs in order to get some relief, are more than unpleasant. They seriously impair sleep. There's no slam-dunk for this condition, but there are some therapies that may help.
One promising treatment is enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). This therapy increases blood flow throughout the entire body and is extremely beneficial for treating restless leg syndrome.
Supplemental iron has been shown to reduce symptoms in people who are iron deficient. Since mild iron deficiency is common (especially in premenopausal women), start with 28 mg of iron per day, taken along with vitamin C to increase absorption. If that doesn’t help after three or four weeks, get your iron levels tested before taking more iron.
Adjustable foot wraps can also help. Restiffic is a special foot wrap that puts pressure on muscles in the foot. While some clinical research has found it to reduce and, in some cases eliminate, symptoms of restless leg syndrome, some patients find it cumbersome and uncomfortable. A do-it-yourself solution is to ball up a small sock, place it behind the first metatarsal joint (big toe) in the arch of your foot, and wrap it up tightly using an ace wrap.
Additional preventive therapies include regular exercise and laying off caffeine, alcohol, and medications such as antidepressants, Benadryl, and related antihistamines that may trigger symptoms.
Finally—and this may sound crazy—some of my former patients have sworn by bar soap for treating restless leg syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps. This unusual cure is all over the Internet. Even though it is a little out of the box, it appears to work for a lot of people. The most common brands of soap mentioned are Ivory and Dial, but the exact brand doesn’t really seem to matter. Go ahead, slip a bar of soap under the covers at the foot of your bed before you turn in for the night.