Restless Leg Syndrome and Fibromyalgia

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, many people who suffer from fibromyalgia also suffer from a baffling condition called restless legs syndrome. The study, which appeared in the Oct 15, 2010 issue of the journal, says that 33 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia also have restless legs syndrome. Only 3.1 percent of people without fibromyalgia also had restless leg syndrome.

In a press release related to the study, Dr. Nathaniel F. Watson, an associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle and one of the authors of the study, said that a "substantial portion of sleep disruption in fibromyalgia is due to restless legs syndrome."

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and the impossible to ignore urge to move them around.

Those with this condition also sometimes feel similar uncomfortable sensations in their arms and other parts of the body. These uncomfortable sensations are difficult to describe, according to some RLS patients. The sensations have been described as pins and needles, a creepy crawly feeling or even an itchy feeling. These feelings are worse when lying or sitting which means the condition can lead to significant sleep deprivation.

Its Impact on Fibromyalgia

Sleep deprivation is often already a symptom of fibromyalgia because the pain and discomfort of the condition makes it difficult to get a good night sleep. Restless legs syndrome exacerbates the other symptoms of fibromyalgia, according to researchers, by making the body even more fatigued and unable to deal with the physical and mental stress of fibromyalgia.

More About the Study

Test subjects in the study included 172 fibromyalgia patients, 93 percent of whom were women, and 63 people who did not have fibromyalgia and reported feeling free of fatigue and pain. The fibromyalgia patients tended to be older, with a mean age of 50, than the control group that had a mean age of 41.

The sleep quality of each person in each group was monitored and assessed. It was noted that sleep disturbances were more common among those with fibromyalgia. Restless legs syndrome was determined to be a deciding factor in the cause of sleep disturbances in more than 30 percent of the fibromyalgia patients.


The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study concluded that doctors should routinely ask fibromyalgia patients about symptoms of restless legs syndrome. The sooner treatment can be started, the sooner the patient can get a better night's sleep and begin improving the quality of his or her life.

RLS can be treated medically and some of the symptoms can be alleviated by ice packs or heating pads applied to the legs, leg massage or hot baths.


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