The compelling desire to move is what gives restless legs syndrome its name. Common characteristics of RLS signs and symptoms include:
- Sensation starts after being at rest. The sensation typically begins after you've been lying down or sitting for an extended time, such as in a car, airplane or movie theater.
- Relief by movement. The sensation of RLS/WED lessens with movement, such as stretching, jiggling your legs, pacing or walking.
- Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms occur mainly at night.
- Nighttime leg twitching. RLS/WED may be associated with another, more common condition called periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kick, possibly throughout the night, while you sleep.
People typically describe restless legs syndrome symptoms as abnormal, unpleasant sensations in their legs or feet, usually on both sides of the body. Less commonly, the sensations affect the arms.
The sensations, which generally occur within the limb rather than on the skin, are described as:
Sometimes the sensations seem to defy description. Affected people usually don't describe the condition as a muscle cramp or numbness. They do, however, consistently describe the desire to move their legs.
It's common for symptoms to fluctuate in severity. In some cases, symptoms disappear for periods of time, then recur.
When to see a doctor
Some people with restless legs syndrome never seek medical attention because they worry they won't be taken seriously. Some doctors wrongly attribute symptoms to nervousness, stress, insomnia or muscle cramps.
But RLS/WED has received attention and focus from the media and medical community in recent years, making more people aware of the condition.
If you think you may have RLS/WED, call your doctor.
Dec. 10, 2014
- Restless legs syndrome. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/restless_legs/detail_restless_legs.htm. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Tarsy D. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of restless leg syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Tarsy D. Treatment of restless leg syndrome in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Nov. 30, 2014.
- Garcia-Borreguero D, et al. The long-term treatment of restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease: Evidence-based guidelines and clinical consensus best practice guidance: A report from the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. Sleep Medicine. 2013;14:675.
- Silber, MH, et al. Willis-Ekbom Foundation revised consensus statement on the management of restless legs syndrome. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2013;88:977.