Alex O'Brien

The unexpected restless legs syndrome treatments

The unexpected restless legs syndrome treatments

Mary Horsfall, 66, has suffered from restless legs syndrome since she was a young woman. She’s tried every treatment imaginable, recently discovering a strange but effective solution that has worked wonders for her.

This is about something I think is quite weird, something that has no scientific basis and should not work but seems to be doing just that. I'm sharing my experience because restless legs syndrome (RLS) is not uncommon and my experience might help others who endure its tortures. 

Since I was a young woman I have suffered from RLS of varying degrees and for random time frames. In fact, I can barely remember a time when my nights were not frequently disturbed by my legs twitching uncontrollably, kicking, or going into muscle spasms. It could very well have begun during my first pregnancy, though it’s hard to be sure of this. My mum and some of her sister are also sufferers, so I suspect a genetic predisposition. It has not been an easy thing to live with.

I have tried numerous treatments, from supplements to physical therapies. Many of them eased the symptoms, at times for lengthy periods. Magnesium, calcium and iron supplements were often helpful. Vitamin E capsules, recommended by a naturopath, seemed to give some relief at times.

I’ve tried massage oils, heat rubs, ice gel, anti-inflammatory gel, Elmore oil and magnesium oil. Most of these helped to some extent, though I think it was the massage rather than the specific oil or rub that was effective. The (quite expensive) magnesium oil was useless, as well as feeling horribly gritty and sticky. There’s probably still a nearly full bottle of it pushed to the back of a bathroom cupboard, too expensive to throw out but too unpleasant to use. For decades I used to get up a couple of times most nights and briskly massage my legs and buttocks, which would usually give effective relief for at least a few hours.

Though not for RLS alone, I spent small fortunes on chiropractors, masseurs, Bowen therapists, Shiatsu practitioners, osteopaths and pilates classes and faithfully followed all their suggested exercise and stretching regimens. The treatments often gave short-term relief, but nothing ever made the problem disappear for long. Acupuncture also did not help.

Over the last few years, despite any measures I took, the condition became worse (or maybe I became less able to tolerate it) and none of the treatments helped much. 

A couple of months ago I came across a claim that a bar of lavender soap in the bed would bring relief from RLS. As you might imagine, my initial reaction was one of amused scorn. I believe I commented 'What rubbish! How can that possibly work?' However, desperation can make even rubbish ideas seem worth trying, so I did. At least soap is cheap and if it didn't work (of course it wouldn't work), I could wash with it.

That was a couple of months ago. Every night I have been putting a bar of lavender soap between the sheets at the bottom of the bed so that at least one foot is in contact with it. When I wake up at night I relocate the soap to the other foot. I can't say it has been a complete cure, but symptoms have been very mild and widely spaced - much, much better than I normally expect. 

I know, it's totally weird, and it could be nothing but the natural variation of the condition, but maybe others can benefit by trying it. Articles I've read since mention different soaps - Irish Spring Soap or a product promoted as Bed Soap. Some do not specify the type of soap. Some people put their soap in a sock or pillowcase, but I use it uncovered. If anyone tries it, I'd love to hear how it goes. Share your experience with me in the comments below.

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