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Fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome (RLS)

Fibromyalgia symptomsRestless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Many persons with fibromyalgia (FMS) suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Studies reveal that adults with fibromyalgia had a significantly higher prevalence and risk of restless leg syndrome than healthy controls.

What is restless leg syndrome?

People with Restless Leg Syndrome experience strange sensations in their legs, like a creeping, burning, or pulling sensation. At times these sensations are quite light, while at other times they are painful. The sensations begin when you relax, which means they can prevent you from sleeping or wake you up many times throughout the night, and it causes fatigue and makes it difficult to do even the simplest of everyday tasks.

Why do FMS and RLS work together?

FMS and RLS are neurological diseases, so they may have shared mechanisms in the brain and/or nervous system. One theory with increasing scientific support suggests that both conditions are associated with central sensitivity. Both diseases share the same pathophysiology (disease progression) related to the function of the dopamine system (the part of the central nervous system that processes the centers of movement, behavior, pleasure, and pain).

Diagnosis of restless legs syndrome

There is no single diagnostic test for RLS, therefore doctors usually diagnose based on symptoms and medical history. Criteria for diagnosing restless leg syndrome (RLS) include:

  • The desire for limb motion, often associated with strange sensations.
  • symptoms that manifest or worsen at rest.

Your doctor may conduct laboratory tests to eliminate other possible causes of your symptoms, and may also order a sleep study.

Symptoms of FMS & RLS

FMS and RLS have the following symptoms:

  • Excessive drowsiness in the daytime.
  • Concentrating difficulties

The primary symptom of restless legs syndrome is strange (paresthesia) or unpleasant (dysaesthesia) sensations in the legs and an urgent desire to move to alleviate these sensations. FMS can involve paresthesia or dysaesthesia, but the desire to move and an increase in symptoms while relaxing is unique to RLS.

RLS treatment

RLS treatments can include medications and lifestyle changes. For mild to moderate symptoms, your doctor may advise you to reduce or eliminate your caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco consumption. If you are deficient in nutrition, particularly iron, folic acid, or magnesium, your doctor may recommend supplements. Additional life management techniques include:

  • Exercise regularly and in moderation.
  • Avoid overexertion.
  • Make Warm baths
  • leg massage
  • Apply heat or ice.
  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Your doctor may recommend medicines to treat Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). Common types are as follows:

  • Dopamine:  (Examples: Requip, Mirapex) These medicines act like dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates muscle movement.
  • Benzodiazepines: (examples: Valium, Xanax) are central nervous system depressants, commonly used as anti-anxiety drugs, and suppress muscular contractions.
  • Opioids: (Examples: Darvon, Percodan) These analgesics also relax you and may deter restless leg syndrome (RLS) in some people.
  • Anticonvulsants:  (for example Neurontin and Tegretol) These are usually to prevent seizures, but sometimes help relieve muscular spasms.


It is never easy to know whether your symptoms are related to fibromyalgia or not. RLS is one of those comorbidities that are associated with fibromyalgia. If you think you have RLS, talk to your doctor.

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