Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder characterized by abnormal sensations in the limbs, most commonly the legs.  The symptoms typically occur when resting and are relieved by moving the legs.   RLS symptoms are at their worse in the evening or at night.  Most people with RLS also experience periodic leg movements during sleep (PLMS), essentially involuntary kicks, that can disrupt both their sleep and that of their partners.  People with RLS suffer from poor sleep, reduced alertness and functioning during the day, and a generally poor quality of life.

There are two forms of RLS – primary and secondary RLS.  Secondary RLS occurs in conjunction with other medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney disease.  The symptoms may resolve if the underlying condition improves.  Primary RLS is not associated with a known cause and may be hereditary.

RLS is more common than most people, and even physicians, appreciate.   About 7% of the US population has RLS.  About 1/3 of these people, or 2.7% of the population, have moderate to severe symptoms.  RLS is more common in women than in men and the risk of developing RLS increases with age.

You may have RLS if you have the following four characteristic symptoms:

  • You have urges to move your limbs, usually accompanied by unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations
  • Your symptoms occur or worsen when you are resting
  • Your symptoms occur or worsen in the evening or night
  • Your symptoms are relieved by moving your limbs

If you experience some or all of the symptoms described above you should discuss the possibility of RLS, and potential treatment, with your doctor.

Most people with RLS experience uncomfortable sensations that can be described as painful, or even as chronic pain.  Moreover, because RLS frequently occurs in associations with chronic pain conditions such as painful diabetic neuropathy, the distinction between RLS and chronic pain may be difficult.   These associations highlight the importance of treating both RLS and chronic pain when the two co-exist.

To learn more about RLS, visit:

Mayo Clinic

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Willis-Ekbom Disease / RLS Foundation