Restless leg syndrome (RLS), marked by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, is a neurological disorder that affects as many as 12 million Americans. Symptoms usually strike when patients are lying in bed at night, but restless leg syndrome can also flare up in the daytime (during prolonged periods of sitting, for example).
Restless leg syndrome patients typically report a feeling of burning, tingling, aching, itching, or tugging deep beneath the skin of their lower legs (and sometimes in the thighs, feet, hands, and arms as well). Although symptom intensity and duration vary from person to person, moving the legs tends to ease the discomfort for most patients.
Restless Legs Syndrome can be described as the feeling of itching or feeling like a forced pulling sensation of the legs. It appears at night and prevents people from falling asleep and hence may lead to fatigue during the day time. It is generally more common in adults starting around the age of 40. Western medical pharmaceuticals cannot cure the condition and in fact have side effects of nausea, dizziness and hallucinations and can even trigger day time sleep attacks. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been treating this symptom successfully for over 2000 years. In fact research has shown that acupuncture is far more effective than pharmaceutical intervention.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine there is more than one cause contributing to the problem of restless legs. One of the causes of Restless Legs Syndrome is yin deficiency. In very simplified terms, according to Chinese medical thought, most health problems are due to an imbalance between yin and yang. Restless Legs Syndrome is no exception, where a common cause for Restless Syndrome is yin deficiency. If you think of the human body as a natural self-regulating air conditioning system keeping the temperature at optimum level, then getting a symptom like hot feet at night time is when this system breaks down.
Day time is the time of yang which is expressed in work activity and follows the action of the sun. Night time is the time of yin which is expressed in the inactivity of sleep and follows the moon. Days are hot and nights are cold. When the body’s natural thermostat is out of balance, heat trapped in the body comes out at night and disturbs the legs and makes them restless.
What makes this condition worse is that the long term sleep deprivation in turn causes more yin deficiency leading to more internal heat getting trapped.
Acupuncture can break this cycle, calm the legs down, and promote peaceful sleep. There are many different symptoms that can be experienced at night for those people suffering from yin deficiency and include insomnia, bed wetting, dreamed disturbed sleep, excessive hot feet that need to put out the sheets, waking up with a churning feeling in the stomach and night sweats.
Even though western medicine regards Restless Legs Syndrome as a neurological disorder, acupuncture can successfully treat this condition.