Monday, September 12, 2011

Legs come to me, be still: Fibromyalgia and Restless Leg Syndrome are they Bed Buddies?

If you have restless leg syndrome (RLS) you understand the creepy crawly sensation, the inability to keep your legs still, the nocturnal interrupter of peace and sleep, the unwanted bed buddy.

Restless leg syndrome, like fibromyalgia is believed to be caused by a disruption in the central nervous system. It frequently occurs with FM and is considered in the preliminary proposed criteria for diagnosing FM. Though not generally considered painful, it is quit annoying and rears its ugly head in the evening and bedtime hours.

Like many centralization disorders, RLS most likely has a myofascial component which initiates the event and disturbs the normal nighttime neurotransmitters (messengers to and from the brain), interrupting our normal stages of sleep. You know, the ones we don’t get, the ones that keep us from feeling refreshed even if we do sleep eight or nine hours.

Check it out:

Massage your legs; see if you feel any bumps that hurt when you press on them. If you do feel a trigger point, massage it with short strokes in one direction, holding about 80%pressure as you do. Because of the central nervous system component, the presence of trigger points may be an aggravating factor not only to FM, but to RLS also.
Periodic Limb movement (PLM) is its cohort. You may wake yourself in the night because of it, and these jerking, kicking, tear up the sheets movements are looked for in a sleep study. Periodic limb movement interferes with sleep quality and disrupts the sleep cycle, or it could be the other way around, the out of balance brain chemicals makes us move our legs in sleep 100's of times. Either way, if you have RLS you should have a sleep study done to “check for PLM.” You can have PLM without RLS, but frequently they are in cohabitation.

There are medications to treat RLS/PLM, some are affective, some not. We are all different, and just as a patient with hypertension, you might have to try several different ones, from several different classes of drugs before you find one that helps you. Paradoxically, some medications can cause RLS, and medications used to treat RLS may interfere with other medications you are taking . Be sure to talk this over with your doctor and pharmacist.

Harmony and Hope, Celeste

This blog is based on my original answer as fibromyalgia expert at ShareCare to the question, "Is Fibromyalgia Related to Restless Leg Syndrome?” View other answered questions on my profile at


Viola-Saltzman M, et al High prevalence of restless legs syndrome among patients with fibromyalgia: A controlled cross-sectional study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine ,2010; 6: 423-427.

Wolfe F, Clauw DJ, Fitzcharles MA, Goldenberg DL, Häuser W, Katz RS, Mease P, Russell AS, Russell IJ, Winfield JB. Fibromyalgia Criteria and Severity Scales for Clinical and Epidemiological Studies: A Modification of the ACR Preliminary Diagnostic Criteria for Fibromyalgia. Rheumatol. 2011 Feb 1. [Epub ahead of print]

All blogs, posts and answers are based on the work in Integrative Therapies for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Myofascial Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by Celeste Cooper, RN, and Jeff Miller, PhD. 2010, Vermont: Healing Arts press and are not meant to replace medical advice.

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