What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome, or Ekbom's Syndrome, is a neurological condition characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. Sufferers describe these sensations in a variety of ways: like insects crawling inside their legs, as burning or tugging sensation, or like someone is tugging on their leg muscles. The severity can range from merely uncomfortable to extremely painful. There is usually an uncontrollable urge to move the legs in order to experience some relief. Individuals with RLS can experience injuries due to the need to move their legs, can have their ability to walk disturbed during an episode, and often have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Women, overweight individuals, and older individuals seem to have higher rates of RLS, and it appears to be genetic, as well.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
Doctors believe RLS may be caused by dopamine imbalances in the brain, and it is thought that sodium levels in the body may also play a large part. Some individuals report increased episodes of RLS after ingesting large amounts of salty foods, and decreased episodes when they abstain from or decrease salt in their diets. There are other factors as well, including hormone levels. It is an issue that likely has multiple factors.
How is Restless Leg Syndrome Treated?
Current treatments usually include prescription medication, such as Dopaminergic Agents (which regulate muscle action), Benzodiazepines (which suppress muscle action), and Opiates (which cause relaxation). Sufferers are also advised to increase the iron in their diets, as iron is essential in the creation of dopamine.
Many people with RLS also increase their intake of other nutrients and vitamins, such as magnesium, and take estrogen to balance their hormone levels.
Many also use hot tubs, heat pads, and saunas to help alleviate symptoms.
How Do Infrared Saunas Help Alleviate Restless Leg Syndrome?
Many RLS sufferers report that their symptoms decrease when they undergo detoxification, either through diet, sauna use, or a combination of the two. There are a few reasons why saunas are helping:
- Sweating cleanses the body of toxins and salt. High sodium levels seem to worsen RLS, so sweating them out appears to decrease episodes.
- The high temperatures of a sauna create heat stress in the body, which causes it to release dopamine. This may alleviate dopamine imbalances in the brain and, thusly, alleviate RLS symptoms.
- Saunas relax the body and mind, and when used an hour or two before bed they help create a deep, restful sleep. The relaxation of the muscles alleviates much of the muscle soreness RLS sufferers experience, and the deep sleep is something most RLS sufferers don't get often enough.
Do you suffer from RLS? Have you found saunas to be useful in alleviating symptoms? Tell us in the comments below!