Why are my leg muscles so tense

Restless Legs Syndrome - Are You Affected?

A restless sleep, frequent waking up and leaden tiredness every day - despite an optimally coordinated sleep system? Anyone who falls into bed dead tired every evening and still cannot find peace, often searches for an agonizing long time to find the cause. It is not uncommon for victims of such a sleep disorder to suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). Maybe you are also affected by it?

Restless legs syndrome - what is it?

The RLS manifests itself in an excruciating restlessness that occurs in the legs and very rarely in the arms. The complaints are particularly evident in resting situations and states of relaxation. The discomforts range from pulling, tingling or tensioning to pain in the legs. They trigger an irresistible urge in those affected to tense the muscles and move.

These symptoms are strongest in the evening and at night, but they can also show up during the day. Short-term relief brings any type of exercise such as walking around, squatting, or cycling. However, the complaints return after a short time.

How do I recognize restless legs syndrome?

The symptoms of RLS are slightly different in each patient, but the characteristic features are always the same.

- urge to move
Especially in quiet situations such as lying or sitting, the legs tearing, pulling, stabbing or tingling, which triggers an immediate urge to move. Sitting or lying down becomes almost impossible. Often these symptoms also occur when going to the cinema, concert or theater. Many of those affected consciously avoid such events because of their complaints, without realizing the real reason.

- Great tiredness
Falling asleep and staying asleep is disturbed by the constant feeling of restlessness, restful sleep is no longer possible. Often there is also an involuntary muscle twitching that wakes the affected person out of sleep. Anyone who suffers from these sleep disorders for a long time can hardly cope with everyday life. Performance is lost and gives way to deep exhaustion. This lack of drive also easily leads to depression.

- Movement only helps for a short time
It is typical of RLS that physical activity alleviates the symptoms immediately - but unfortunately only temporarily. Anyone who gets up and walks around or tenses their muscles rhythmically only combats the annoying symptoms for a short time. As soon as the body goes back to the resting position, the symptoms usually reappear.

What are the causes of restless legs syndrome?

What exactly triggers the RLS is still not fully understood. It is at least clear that it is a disruption of the function of a neurotransmitter. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for a large number of control processes in the human body - including motor skills. Although the parallels to Parkinson's disease are obvious, no connection between the two diseases has been found in studies.

It is estimated that RLS occurs in around five to ten percent of the population - making it one of the most common neurological diseases in Germany. Most of those affected, however, only show very weak symptoms. Incidentally, women are more often affected than men.

RLS has two forms

The doctor differentiates between two forms of restless legs syndrome:

- Idiopathic form
This manifestation of the disease is independent, that is, there is no secondary trigger. It can be inherited as a genetic predisposition and usually occurs from the age of 30. While a spontaneous improvement of the clinical picture is rather unlikely, there is a certain tendency for the symptoms to worsen with advancing age.

- The secondary form
Here, the RLS is only triggered by other illnesses or the use of medication. It usually disappears when the cause has been removed. Triggers can be iron deficiency, reduced kidney function or pregnancy. Neurological diseases or nerve irritation can also cause RLS.

What can I do against it?

Anyone who suffers from RLS should definitely consult a doctor to rule out serious illnesses that can trigger the syndrome. However, if it is the idiopathic form, there are some strategies that can be used to alleviate the symptoms so that the condition is more tolerable. If the symptoms are very pronounced, drug therapy is advisable to improve the quality of life and sleep.

Taking antidepressants, caffeine, or alcohol can make symptoms worse, as can smoking tobacco. Warm or cold showers, a massage or rubbing the legs with rubbing alcohol are helpful.

A short walk in the evening, a short ride on the exercise bike or light stretching exercises can quickly counteract the symptoms. If you sit at your desk a lot, you can use a standing desk to provide additional movement. Targeted relaxation methods such as autogenic training or meditation are counterproductive, as they tend to aggravate the symptoms rather than alleviate them. Gymnastic exercises such as Pilates, yoga or Qigong that focus on targeted muscle tension are better.