Restless Leg Syndrome and Acupuncture

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can effectively treatment Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS).  Restless Leg Syndrome is described as a tingling, prickling feeling, or sometimes pain, that is alleviated by moving. It happens mostly at night time, while laying down to rest. This can disrupt sleep due to the constant movement required to shake off the uncomfortable feeling.

Contributing Factors

Restless Leg Syndrome is more common in women over the age of 50, however it is often found in men and children. Women may have a greater propensity towards blood deficiency due to the fact that they lose blood with their menstrual cycle. Contributing factors may include poor circulation from smoking, diabetes, or lack of exercise. It can also occur temporarily in late pregnancy, as a possible result of reduced circulation in the legs.
Nutritional deficiency, particularly a lack of bound iron, is a major contributing factor that is known to exacerbate the disorder. It is important to consume all the pieces that make up a strong blood cell, as failure to do so will likely result in hypofunction of the cell. Increasing consumption of folate and ferratin could help this.

Restless Leg Syndrome help with Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine and Western medicine both believe Restless Leg Syndrome to be caused by either an inadequate supply of blood to the legs, or by the legs receiving blood that is poorly nourished. Basically, the blood is either stuck and not flowing smoothly, or the blood is lacking sustenance. Thus, the prickly sensations described during Restless Leg Syndrome are not unlike the symptoms one feels when one’s leg “falls asleep” as a result of a diminished blood flow.

A different way of thinking, a Chinese medicine system that has been around for over 2,000 years

In Chinese medicine we often use terms from nature to compare how the body functions and how disorders can be treated effectively. That being said, with Restless Leg Syndrome, if there is less blood circulating in the blood vessels, there is extra room. Often this extra room gets invaded by what we call “internal wind.” When wind is moving in the channels, it causes involuntary movement.

To treat Restless Leg Syndrome with Chinese Medicine, we would tonify deficient liver blood, or unblock stagnation to facilitate the free flow of qi and blood.

Why night time?

Night time is Yin. It is quiet, nourishing, and resting. It is the opposite of Yang; day, bright, lively, doing. Blood is a Yin substance (its partner being Qi; Yang). At night, the blood goes back to the liver where it is stored so it can rest and detox to be ready for tomorrow’s activities. If the body is lacking enough blood, or if it isn’t flowing smoothly, it is most noticeable during Yin time.

Why is this happening?

Blood Stagnation
One reason the legs may not be receiving blood is that it is not flowing smoothly because there is a blockage somewhere causing it to get “stuck”. This is called Blood Stagnation. One contributing factor for this could be stress, anger, or frustration. These emotions can cause a feeling of being stuck, and the body responds to that.

Blood Deficiency
Another reason the blood might not be reaching the legs could be due to Blood Deficiency. Since this happens at night time while the blood is supposed to be housed in the liver, it is called liver blood deficiency. Since this condition occurs in the legs, and usually in older population, this is a liver-kidney disorder.
This does not necessarily mean you do not have enough blood cells (although that may be the case). This usually means the blood cells you do have are not properly nourishing the tissues as they should.

How to find relief

Herbs and acupuncture can help treat the symptoms associated with Restless Leg Syndrome. In China, diet modification for this condition would include eating organ meat, which contain both folate and ferretin. As Restless Leg Syndrome is often a direct result of liver blood deficiency, the addition of organ meat can help to replenish this deficiency.

If there are any questions, call us for a free consult or make an appointment online.

Sources:
RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME AND CHINESE MEDICINE
Restless Legs Syndrome and Chinese Medicine By: Xue Yan, MD

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