I am 41, British, and have had Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) all my adult life. I can not remember when I felt the first twinges, so it must have been gradual. My paternal grandmother suffered from RLS. I remember, when visiting my grandparents in Birmingham (United Kingdom) as a child, Nana would mention these mysterious 'fidgets' (as she called them), which kept her awake at night. I would remove her slippers and give her an inexpert foot massage, which she always said made her feel better. However, I suspect she was sparing my feelings, as in my experience a massage rarely brings relief. Indeed, whenever I have a particularly bad spell, I have to resist the urge to chop the wayward trotters off!
So what is Restless Leg Syndrome? Very briefly, it is an overpowering urge to move, in order to get rid of an exceedingly unpleasant feeling, described in turn as a crawling, itching, antsy sensation, to name but a few. As well as the legs, the condition can also affect the feet, ankles and / or wrists (and no doubt other areas as well) when they are at rest. So it can occur when you are trying to sleep, distract you when you are at the cinema, reading a book, on a plane, at a desk, or at the table having a meal. It disappears whenever you are active – walking, jogging, baking, hanging the clothes on the line, etc.
So in my case it is genetic – my father also suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome, as does my younger brother. My dad feels it in his ankles, my brother in his wrists and me in my feet. My dad only gets it when watching television, strangely enough. I get it at night, and when it is particularly bad, I get little or no sleep. Luckily my partner has not yet stomped out of the bedroom in search of a more restful bed companion. Oftentimes, though, I do move to the sofa for the night.
MY RLS SYMPTOMS WORSEN
I am currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and the Syndrome has got particularly bad during April, which is the hottest month of the year. Despite the air conditioning, I have also begun to feel it in my wrists. I tried reflexology (foot massages), but it was agony. To the massagers' consternation my feet would leap out of their hands as the crawling sensations caused by their kneading became unbearable. What was meant to be a relaxing hour routinely turned into an ordeal. I think the sessions did help at first, but I got to dread them and so I dropped them altogether. It was doubly off-putting to see my partner fall asleep during his reflexology sessions, wake and stretch an hour later, briskly strap his sandals back on and walk jauntily back out onto the bustling street, whistling through his teeth. I felt like a ragged doll. My only consolation was that my wretched feet now felt as …