Expert Advice

How can I calm trembling legs?

Restless legs syndrome, a burning or creeping sensation that triggers uncontrollable movement, disrupts the sleep of 12 million Americans.

How can I calm trembling legs?
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Restless legs syndrome tends to run in families, so in most cases the cause is genetic. If you're pregnant or suffer from Parkinson's or diabetes, you may also suffer from this condition.

Before prescribing treatment, I evaluate patients for iron-deficiency or anemia. Iron replacement can reverse RLS if you're deficient or anemic.

One way to treat the condition is with dopamine agonists--medications that produce effects like the neurotransmitter dopamine. Currently, the only dopamine agonist that is FDA-approved for RLS is ropinirole [brand name Requip]. Another dopamine agonist is pramipexole, or Mirapex. We don't know exactly how these medications work, but researchers are looking into how dopamine affects brain mechanisms.—Mark Hallett, M.D., senior investigator for the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Sleep Specialist
RLS symptoms often come with rest or inactivity, so staying physically and mentally active tends to help. Walking, for example, may relieve the symptoms instantly. If you have to stay seated, anything mentally engaging can obliterate your symptoms. Eat something that requires effort, such as pistachios, or distract yourself with a crossword puzzle or video game. You could also get a Push Cush [$10;], which is a small, two-chamber pillow you push with your feet so you can work your leg muscles without getting up.

In general, dopamine agonists, narcotic medications, anti-seizure drugs, and sleeping pills can treat RLS. Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco tend to aggravate the condition, so avoid those substances. If you do drink caffeinated beverages, do so only early in the day.—Mark Buchfuhrer, M.D., medical director of the Southern California Restless Legs Syndrome Support Group

Improving your circulation can alleviate RLS. There's a great supplement called Circu Caps, which is a blend of rosemary oil and butcher's broom. Ginger, cayenne, and vitamin E could also stimulate circulation--as long as you're not taking blood-thinning medication.

Before going to bed, try this simple hydrotherapy treatment: Warm your feet in a bath for 10 minutes. Soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water, wring them out, and put them on. Cover the cotton socks with a pair of wool socks and climb into bed. This increases circulation and induces relaxation.

Calcium is necessary for the biochemical process of muscle contraction, since it helps muscle lengthen and shorten. To ensure your muscles contract smoothly, get at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day.Evan Fleischmann, N.D., board member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians