Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome

Article by Shane Armfield

What is a Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a sensory, neurological disorder characterised by unpleasant sensations in the legs and the compelling need to move the legs. The most common sensations have been described as cramping, soreness, creeping or crawling sensation in the calves or feet, varying in severity from mild discomfort to severe pain. Restless Leg Syndrome is usually experienced when trying to sleep or when seated.

Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms?

The most distinctive symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome are cramping, soreness, creeping or crawling in the lower legs when lying down and trying to relax. As a result, most people with RLS have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Over a period of time, this may cause daytime exhaustion and fatigue.

What Causes Restless Legs?

The exact cause of Restless Leg Syndrome is unknown, but it has been linked to:

  • Iron deficiency and poor iron transport around the body;
  • Family genetics – 50% of RLS is linked to genetic chromosome 12 or 14, depending on the family;
  • chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and peripheral neuropathies;
  • pregnant women in their last trimester;
  • people taking certain medications – such as anti-nausea, anti-seizure, and antipsychotic drugs.Restless Leg Syndrome

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome


  • Several medications may treat the disorder, including central nervous system depressants, benzodiazepines, opioids and anticonvulsants. Medications that affect dopamine transmission in the central nervous system (Sinemet, Madopar, Pergolide and Cabergoline) have been shown to help with Restless Leg Syndrome. Your GP or specialist will provide you with the relevant support and medication if you require it.
  • If you are Iron, folate or magnesium deficient, your GP will be able to perform a blood test to confirm any deficiencies and prescribe the necessary supplements.

Therapy – Exercise

  • Movement can bring temporary relief from the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome. This is why you may feel that walking in the night when you get symptoms feels good. Alternatively, performing a regular moderate exercise program may help reduce your symptoms and help you sleep better. However, excessive exercise has been reported by some patients to aggravate RLS symptoms.

Your physiotherapist will be able to monitor and advise you on suitable exercises to help with Restless Leg Syndrome.

Therapy – Massage, Heat and Ice

  • While there is no conclusive evidence suggesting massaging cures Restless Leg Syndrome, many patients feel symptoms can be eased by regular massage.
  • Using a heat pack, having a warm bath or placing an ice pack on your symptomatic areas for 10-15mins before bed may also help relieve symptoms.


Certain lifestyle changes and activities may reduce or eliminate symptoms for patients with no apparent associated medical condition. These include:

  • decreased use of caffeine,
  • decreased use of alcohol,
  • decreased use of tobacco,
  • addressing any stressful influences in your life.

For specific advice, please contact your physiotherapist for advice.

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Osteoarthritis Conditions

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Peripheral Joints

What is Physiotherapy Treatment?

Physiotherapists help people affected by illness, injury or disability through exercise, manual joint therapy, soft tissue techniques, education and advice.  Physiotherapists maintain physical health, allow patients to manage pain and prevent disease for people of all ages. Physiotherapists help encourage pain relief, injury recovery, enabling people to stay playing a sport, working or performing daily living activities while assisting them to remain functionally independent.

There is a multitude of different physiotherapy treatment approaches.

Acute & Sub-Acute Injury Management

physiotherapy treatment

Hands-On Physiotherapy Techniques

Your physiotherapist's training includes hands-on physiotherapy techniques such as:

Your physiotherapist has skilled training. Physiotherapy techniques have expanded over the past few decades. They have researched, upskilled and educated themselves in a spectrum of allied health skills. These skills include techniques shared with other healthcare practitioners. Professions include exercise physiologists, remedial massage therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, chiropractors and occupational therapists, to name a few.

Physiotherapy Taping

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled professional who utilises strapping and taping techniques to prevent and assist injuries or pain relief and function.

Alternatively, your physiotherapist may recommend a supportive brace.

Acupuncture and Dry Needling

Many physiotherapists have acquired additional training in acupuncture and dry needling to assist pain relief and muscle function.

Physiotherapy Exercises

Physiotherapists have been trained in the use of exercise therapy to strengthen your muscles and improve your function. Physiotherapy exercises use evidence-based protocols where possible as an effective way that you can solve or prevent pain and injury. Your physiotherapist is highly skilled in prescribing the "best exercises" for you and the most appropriate "exercise dose" for you, depending on your rehabilitation status. Your physiotherapist will incorporate essential pilates, yoga and exercise physiology components to provide you with the best result. They may even use Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy so that you can watch your muscles contract on a screen as you correctly retrain them.

Biomechanical Analysis

Biomechanical assessment, observation and diagnostic skills are paramount to the best treatment. Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled health professional. They possess superb diagnostic skills to detect and ultimately avoid musculoskeletal and sports injuries. Poor technique or posture is one of the most common sources of a repeat injury.


Aquatic water exercises are an effective method to provide low bodyweight exercises.

Sports Physiotherapy

Sports physio requires an extra level of knowledge and physiotherapy to assist injury recovery, prevent injury and improve performance. For the best advice, consult a Sports & Exercise Physiotherapist.

Vestibular Physiotherapy

Women's Health

Women's Health Physiotherapy is a particular interest group of therapies.

Workplace Physiotherapy

Not only can your physiotherapist assist you in sport, but they can also help you at work. Ergonomics looks at the best postures and workstations set up for your body at work or home. Whether it be lifting technique improvement, education programs or workstation setups, your physiotherapist can help you.


Plus Much More

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled body mechanic. A physiotherapist has particular interests in certain injuries or specific conditions. For advice regarding your problem, please get in touch with your PhysioWorks team.