If you watch TV, you've probably heard about restless leg syndrome (RLS). That's been true ever since Big Pharma came up with a drug for the symptoms. RLS is a very irritating sleep disorder that seems to be getting more common. Some statistics place it at about 10% of all adults.
RLS causes frustrating "crawly" sensations in the legs that are relieved only when you move them. Since RLS happens at night, it can be a serious impediment to a good night's sleep. The exact cause is unknown, but it probably has something to do with stress. That's because the medications that work best at relieving the symptoms are drugs that have a calming effect on the nerves. What natural therapy has a calming effect on nerves? Believe it or not, there is one that's completely free – and it works. It is yoga.
Recently a group of researchers looked at the effect of yoga on 10 women between 32 and 66 years of age with moderate to severe RLS. They picked on women because RLS primarily happens to women. All the women participated in a yoga training program that consisted of two 90-minute classes per week and 30 minutes at home on non-class days. The program went on for eight weeks. Before the program started and after the eight weeks, the researchers measured their RLS symptoms, sleep quality, mood, and perceived stress levels. Here's what happened.
According to the authors of the study, all but one woman "demonstrated striking reductions in RLS symptoms and symptom severity, with symptoms decreasing to minimal/mild." But that wasn't all. In addition they all "showed significant improvements in sleep, perceived stress, and mood." They also noted that the women who were the most consistent at doing the training had the most relief. Then they added a comment that you won't hear on TV. The level of symptom relief was every bit as effective as the drugs that doctors commonly prescribe.
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So let's get this straight. You can do a free therapy that also improves sleep, stress, and mood - or you can spend money taking a drug with side effects. Hmmmm. I think I'll go with the yoga. In fact, I do. In the past, I have occasionally had symptoms of RLS. I found out that the only thing that helped was to get out of bed and start doing some stretching exercises. Then, two years ago, I ended up taking a course in yoga just to see what it was like. After the course, I started spending about 10 minutes every night doing a relaxing and strength building series of yoga moves. The result? I sleep better and I have never ever had those RLS symptoms again.
For those who are not familiar with yoga, it involves learning how to place your body in various positions that tense and stretch the muscles. Then while you are in the position, you use your breath and mind to relax the muscles. Since we all tend to hold tension in our muscles, it is a great way to calm the nerves and to get rid of many of the aches and pains that people tend to hold in their neck, shoulders, and lower back. You can learn how to do the yoga stretches by going to classes and also through DVDs you can buy online.
Yoga systems come in many different flavors. The one that I learned is called hatha yoga. It is gentle and effective and is the one I recommend.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jun;19(6):527-35. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0330. Epub 2012 Dec 27. Efficacy of an eight-week yoga intervention on symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS): a pilot study. Innes KE, Selfe TK, Agarwal P, Williams K, Flack KL.
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