Restless legs syndrome is a common condition affecting nervous system. It causes an urge to move the legs and an uncomfortable sensation in the legs and sometimes arms, chest and face. It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs. These symptoms can be mild or unbearable and are usually worse in the evening or during the night. These unpleasant sensations can often be relieved by moving or rubbing the legs. It can be difficult to sit for a long period of time. In severe cases, restless legs syndrome can be very distressing and disrupt a person's daily activities. About half of people with restless legs syndrome have some degree of lower back pain. Over 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also have a condition that is known as periodic limb movements (PLM). The symptoms of PLM are jerky or twitchy leg involuntary movements, usually at night while you are asleep. The cause of restless legs syndrome is not clear. A theory suggested that it is related to the falling of dopamine in the part of the brain. Having chronic conditions such as diabetes, parkinson’s disease etc is likely to trigger restless leg syndrome development. Iron deficiency anaemia is a trigger for the syndrome. Dopamine agonists are used to treat restless leg syndrome.
There were many case reports with acupuncture treating restless legs syndrome. Acupuncture helps with reducing severity of the symptoms and decreasing the frequency of the symptoms. For example a study has shown that acupuncture helps to improve abnormal leg activity. In this study, significant improvement was seen after 4 week and 6 week acupuncture treatments. There were no side effects found during the treatments.
More recently a study has investigated the effect of acupuncture on restless leg syndrome. There were 46 patients with restless legs syndrome participated the study. These patients were either received 10 session of acupuncture plus gabapentin or gabapentin alone over 4 weeks. The symptoms of patients were assessed at baseline (before treatment), just after the therapeutic course and 8 weeks later. The criteria used for the assessment included the Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), the International Restless Legs Syndrome Rating Scale (IRLSRS), and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI). The result has shown that VAS, IRLSRS, and PSQI improved greater in acupuncture group. After a treatment course and in 8 weeks follow up, VAS and IRLSRS had a significant improvement in both groups, but PSQI improved significantly just in the acupuncture group. Based on the findings of the present study, acupuncture was suggested to improve restless legs syndrome.
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