If you are suffering from restless legs syndrome (RLS), we have good news. RLS, a common health condition, can cause tingling, throbbing, and itching sensations in the legs. Often, these sensations can only be eased with movement. RLS symptoms tend to worsen at night, which can impair the ability to get a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, chronic lack of sleep can impact your overall physical, cognitive, and emotional health.
RLS can be caused by a range of underlying health conditions. One of these is vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. This common health issue affects millions of Americans each year. Along with causing restless legs, vein disease can lead to varicose and spider veins. Common symptoms of vein disease can include
- leg swelling
When it comes to restless legs syndrome, physical exercise can help alleviate symptoms, promote better sleep, and improve quality of life. If vein disease is behind your RLS, minimally invasive vein treatment may also be recommended. For further evaluation, we suggest consulting a vein specialist.
What Exercises Help Restless Legs Syndrome?
There are many types of beneficial stretches and exercises for restless legs syndrome, some of which we cover below. No matter which ones you decide to try, we suggest starting slowly and taking care not to overdo it. Additionally, talk to your doctor beforehand for personalized recommendations.
Stretches for Restless Legs Syndrome
To discover the right stretching formula to relieve your RLS symptoms, we suggest a little experimentation. Try out the following stretches to see what works for you. It may also help to play around with how often, along with what time of day, you do them.
Recommended stretches for restless legs syndrome include:
Calf stretch: While slightly bending both knees, set one foot about 1-2 feet behind the other. Be sure to place both feet flat on the ground. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then change legs.
You can also deepen the stretch by leaning forward slightly and resting your hands on your forward knee. If needed, you can also brace your hands against a chair or wall for additional support.
Front thigh stretch: Standing upright, lift one foot behind you and bend that knee. Grasp the raised foot behind you with the same side hand. Pull the foot up towards your rear, while keeping both knees as close together as possible. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then change sides. If needed, you can maintain your balance by using your opposite hand to brace against a chair or wall.
Hip stretch: From a kneeling position, place one leg forward with your knee bent. Keep the front foot flat on the ground and place your hands on the forward knee or floor for balance. Lean forward and shift your pelvis forward slightly to maximize the stretch through your hip. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then change sides. This stretch can also be done from a standing position, placing your forward foot on a staircase or stable chair.
Exercises for Restless Legs Syndrome
Along with doing the above stretches for restless legs syndrome, getting enough physical exercise can also be beneficial. In fact, following a low-impact, moderate daily exercise program can do wonders when it comes to alleviating RLS symptoms. Just keep in mind that most doctors recommend avoiding very strenuous exercise, such as marathon training or heavy weight lifting. You may also need to avoid exercise within a few hours of bedtime.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program. Rest assured they will almost always be supportive and encouraging. If you are currently sedentary, you may wish to start out with just a few minutes of activity each session. For maximum RLS symptom relief, we recommend working up to at least 30 minutes daily.
If you don’t enjoy exercise, try different activities and consider getting moving with a companion. Being joined by a friend or family member can be a great distraction that helps workout time pass quickly. Plus, this way you can both enjoy the wide range of health improvements that regular physical activity offers.
Below are some specific exercises for restless legs syndrome:
Walking: Many people consider this the easiest, most pleasant, and least expensive way to get their blood pumping. You can plan a walking route right from home or venture further out to discover local hiking trails. If you prefer going to the gym, walking on a treadmill is another convenient, effective option. On a treadmill, you can even watch TV while improving your RLS symptoms.
Biking: Whether you prefer dirt trails or smooth pavement, you can pedal your way toward RLS symptom relief. Just be careful not to overexert on challenging hills or long rides, and always remember to wear your bike helmet and follow the rules of the road.
Swimming: Not only is this a great workout, but swimming can also be easier on the joints than many other physical activities. If you like being in the water but your swimming skills leave something to be desired, try other water-based activities. You can use a kickboard for easier laps in the pool or branch out and attend a water aerobics class. If you live near the beach, you can even go play in the waves. You’ll likely be having so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re exercising.
Yoga and pilates: Although you may need to avoid more vigorous forms like Ashtanga or hot yoga, gentle yoga methods can help RLS. Because yoga is a relaxation technique, it can also aid you in managing stress and improving sleep quality. Pilates is another non-aerobic exercise program that strengthens your core, arms, and legs. It can also help increase flexibility and decrease RLS symptoms.
Other activities: If the above activities aren’t suitable or interesting to you, we encourage you to find some form of exercise that is. Some individuals may enjoy going to the gym (just remember to avoid heavy weights), playing sports, gardening, or even walking around while shopping. To experience an improvement in RLS symptoms, the most important thing is to participate in physical activity on a regular basis.
Expert tip: Some people find that tracking their movement on a smartwatch or Fitbit device helps motivate them to get moving or to become even more active.
Minimally-Invasive Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome at USA Vein Clinics
At USA Vein Clinics, we are passionate about improving your quality of life. If your restless legs are caused by underlying vein disease, our vein specialists are available to help. Although exercise and stretching can sometimes alleviate RLS symptoms, these activities do not address the underlying cause.
To learn more about minimally invasive vein treatment for RLS, you can visit any one of over 100 clinic locations or opt for a convenient telemedicine appointment. Many patients are surprised to learn how quickly relief comes after treatment. Our non-surgical treatments can be performed in less than an hour, from start to finish. Afterward, you can leave immediately and return to most normal activities, including getting a good night’s sleep.
For personalized recommendations, call 888.768.3467 to schedule an initial consultation online with one of our leading experts on restless legs syndrome. Physical exercise can only go so far; we want you to know that further help is available.