An introduction to varicose veins and restless legs
Aside from the visible symptoms of varicose veins, there are a number of other symptoms that can also be attributed to varicose veins. One of these is restless legs.
Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition where someone feels an overwhelming, inexplicable urge to move their legs. Often this urge is the result of unpleasant sensations in the legs, such as tingling, burning, or the sensation that something is crawling over the legs. For many, Restless Leg Syndrome worsens at night or during rest.
Why can varicose veins cause restless legs?
Restless legs is usually considered to be a disorder of the nervous system, where a person feels the need to move their legs for no reason, or because of phantom sensations in the legs. In other words, there is no physical reason why they feel the need to constantly move their legs.
In the case of varicose veins and restless legs, however, it is varicose veins themselves that are the source of discomfort. Varicose veins can cause an ache in the legs because of a build of fluid and toxins, especially at the end of the day or during night. This often leaves the sufferer constantly moving their legs in an attempt to alleviate this ache. This can disrupt sleep, and leave the sufferer feeling tired, irritable, and generally down.
There are a number of self-help methods to relieve restless legs naturally.
- Improve your circulation by getting more exercise. Swimming or cycling are great, but even a walk or some yoga can help greatly. Doing small exercises such as flexing your calf muscles while sitting down, for example at your desk at work, can also boost circulation
- Get your iron levels checked – there have been suggestions that restless leg syndrome is caused by iron deficiency. It’s a good idea to go to the doctor to get your iron and ferratin (the protein that helps store iron) levels checked. Red meat, mussels, pumpkin seeds, lentils and spinach are all high in iron, but you could also take iron supplements, which are available in most supermarkets and health stores
- Magnesium is important for muscle function, so make sure you’re getting enough. Without magnesium your muscles may tense up, causing aches and pains. High magnesium foods include pumpkin seeds, mackerel, spinach, fig, brown rice, quinoa and avocado
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol in the evening. If your restless legs persist throughout the day you may wish to consider cutting these from your diet altogether
- If your restless legs are preventing you from sleeping, try reading a book or watching television to distract you from the sensation
- A hot bath or massage before bed can help relax restless legs and aid a good night’s sleep.
How can herbal remedies help?
There are a number of natural and herbal remedies that may soothe your restless legs.
The first is an extract of Horse Chestnut. This is traditionally used to relieve the symptoms of varicose veins, including heavy, tired legs and cramps. Relief of these symptoms may reduce the need to constantly move your legs. Horse chestnut is available in A.Vogel’s Venaforce tablets or Venagel.
Please note: Venaforce is not suitable for pregnant women, but Venagel is safe to use.
Secondy, you may wish to try Ginkgo biloba, a herb which improves general circulation and blood flow, which will help if you spend a lot of time sitting or standing.
There are a number of medications available for restless legs. Many of them can cause unpleasant side effects so these should only really be used as a last resort for severe cases. Medication for restless legs includes:
- Dopamine agonists – these increase dopamine levels, but they can also make you drowsy, nauseous, dizzy, or give you headaches. Occasionally, they can cause Impulse Control Disorder, which affects a person’s ability to resist harmful or dangerous situations, such as drug-taking, drinking excessively, gambling or other kinds of addiction
- Painkillers – an opiate based painkiller such as codeine or tramadol may be prescribed to relieve pain associated with restless legs
- Sleep medications – these will help you get to sleep even if you are experiencing restless legs
- Levodopa – this may be recommended for occasional symptoms of restless legs, but if taken long-term can in fact make symptoms worse.
In addition, you may wish to simply treat the root cause of the problem: the varicose veins themselves. Research suggests that 80% of people noticed a significant improvement in their restless legs after varicose vein treatment. This treatment ranges from compression socks to surgery, and is detailed on our treatment page.