Remedies vs. drugs for restless leg troubles
It’s almost impossible to describe restless leg syndrome. People who have never experienced the creepycrawly sensation that quiets only upon moving the legs have a hard time imagining what victims go through.
One person explained: “The best way I can describe it is unbearable sensations that start as uncomfortable and then keep increasing and increasing in your legs (not pain but a terrible feeling).
All you want to do is get rid of the feeling by walking, moving your legs on the bed, punching or rubbing your legs, ofttimes to no avail.”
The cause of RLS is mysterious. However, doctors have four medications that they can prescribe to help people with RLS. These drugs all affect brain chemistry.
Three target the neurotransmitter dopamine and also are used to treat Parkinson’s disease. They include ropinirole (Requip), pramipexole (Mirapex) and the transdermal patch rotigotine (Neupro). Like most medications, these can cause side effects, such as dry mouth or drowsiness. Some people fall asleep in the middle of the day with no advance warning. Needless to say, this can make driving dangerous.
In addition, these drugs can cause some unexpected reactions. Most people are taken aback when they discover that they have an uncontrollable urge to gamble, shop compulsively or binge eat. One woman wrote us: “I thought I’d finally found the best medication for my RLS. Then I started to gamble. It is out of control to the extent that my husband and I have separated. I also lost my good-paying job and am in financial trouble.
“I can’t stop gambling, though I never gambled before in my life. I want to stop taking my pramipexole, but then what will I do about my RLS? If I don’t take my meds, I can’t sleep and I’m in pain with all the leg jumping.”
The fourth medication is related to a common anticonvulsant, gabapentin. Gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant) is approved for treating pain after shingles (postherpetic neuralgia) as well as for RLS. When the Food and Drug Administration approved this medication, it required a warning that the drug “may cause significant driving impairment.” This may be due in part to sleepiness and dizziness. Other side effects include headache, nausea and fatigue.
It’s no wonder that many RLS patients look for alternative approaches, like rubbing legs with lavender oil. Some people find it helpful to put a bar of soap under the bottom sheet near the legs. One gentleman told us that since he started using a popular brand of soap, he has been able to reduce his dose of Mirapex and get good sleep.
A visitor to our website reported: “Thanks to People’s Pharmacy, I’ve used soap (slivers of any brand, samplesize bars of any kind) under the bottom sheet, sprinkled where my legs will be. It’s miraculous!”
Such home remedies won’t work for everyone, but they are less likely to cause unpleasant side effects.