Essential Oils for Restless Legs Syndrome
Can plant extracts cure the uncomfortable sensations in your legs that keep you up at night?
A poll by the SleepFoundation.org revealed that 15 percent of adults in the U.S. experience the symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS) at least a few times a week. The same survey reported that nearly half said it took them 30 minutes or more to fall asleep due to the pulling, involuntary twitching, and throbbing sensations in the legs that characterize RLS.
To relieve these symptoms, RLS patients often move their legs, contributing to the disease’s name. Unfortunately, that kicking and twitching brings only a brief respite, and RLS patients often suffer from insomnia and daytime sleepiness. If you’re one of the thousands of Americans who’ve spent countless sleepless nights due to RLS, you may have heard that essential oils are helpful in reducing the symptoms of RLS. But do these potions actually work?
Can Essential Oils Help RLS?
Essential oils are extracted from plants to produce a liquid that contains the “essential” properties of the plant. Well-known essential oils include peppermint, chamomile, rosemary, and jasmine. These oils are said to reduce muscle pain and spasms, and can have a calming psychological effect on the user. But could they also help alleviate RLS?
To understand if essential oils are a viable RLS treatment, it’s worth noting that RLS has been attributed to several serious disorders that range from iron deficiency to chronic conditions such as kidney disease and Parkinson’s disease. RLS is also believed to be caused by an abnormal level of the brain chemical dopamine that controls body movements. Additionally, studies have found a correlation between RLS and varicose veins. By treating the uncomfortable symptoms of varicose veins like itching, pain, and swelling, the majority of varicose vein patients were able to get a restful sleep.
Conditions that produce RLS are treated with medications to balance dopamine levels in the brain, muscle relaxants, or iron supplements, to name a few. In the case of varicose veins, a number of minimally invasive treatments can permanently eliminate the bulging twists of veins and their accompanying symptoms. Other methods to reduce RLS symptoms include vibration therapy, pneumatic compression devices, stretching exercises, and massages.
That last item is where essential oils might come into play. Massaging your legs loosens tense muscles so you can unwind before bed and ease into sleep. Rubbing an essential oil onto your legs, or adding an essential oil to a cold compress or bath water, has a calming effect that could diminish RLS symptoms prior to bedtime.
There is some medical data suggesting massaging with essential oil can combat the effects of RLS. One study found that kidney disease patients on dialysis who complained of RLS noticed a reduction in symptoms by massaging with lavender oil.
Unfortunately, Essentials Oils Don't Cure RLS
Essential oils are not necessarily harmful, and may be helpful in controlling the distressing symptoms of RLS in some patients. However, because they are topical treatments, they don’t remedy the underlying cause of RLS. In the case of varicose veins, that underlying cause is malfunctioning vein valves that allow blood to congregate and stretch the veins. If your RLS is caused by iron deficiency or Parkinson’s disease, your doctor can prescribe therapies and medications for those conditions to reduce the nighttime crawling sensations in the legs. In short, essential oils are not a long-term solution to RLS.
Always check with your doctor before using essential oils, as it’s possible they could interfere with other medications you take. If you and your doctor decide essential oils are safe for your RLS, you should always mix the potion with a carrier oil like sweet almond oil, olive oil, coconut, or jojoba oil. To make sure you don’t have an allergic reaction, test a small amount of oil on the skin before using, especially essential oils made of citrus that may irritate the skin.
Since RLS could be due to several serious disorders, you need a thorough examination by your doctor to determine the exact cause and create a treatment plan. If you also have varicose veins and notice their symptoms intensify at night, you should make an appointment with a vein specialist to learn your options for treating varicose veins — and hopefully rid you of RLS so you can sleep soundly at night.
Visit the Center for Vein Specialists
The nationwide offices of the Centers for Vein Restoration have helped hundreds of our patients overcome the pain and swelling of varicose veins. We’ll help you manage your varicose veins and RLS with both non-surgical and surgical methods. Contact us today for an appointment.