Those experiencing repetitive jerking or sudden cramping of the legs as they sleep may be experiencing Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). This is a condition where an involuntary repetitive movement of one’s legs is experienced about every 30 seconds. Less typically, PLMD can affect the upper limbs as well. This disorder should not be confused with Restless Leg Syndrome.
Although the presumed main symptom of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder would be movements in the legs and sometimes arms, most people also complain about the inability to sleep and being tired during the day. Often, the only people who are aware of the leg movements are bed partners of the PLMD sufferer. These individuals, however, can be a good resource for determining both severity and frequency of the condition.
- Movement most commonly taking place around the hip, knees or ankles
- A person’s movement can range from just a slight tick to complete thrashing
- Movements can last from 2 to 5 seconds
- Each movement is rhythmic and will occur approximately every 20 – 40 seconds
If you are alone and experience these symptoms, keep a sleep journal to note when the occurrences happen and if there are any foods or other conditions that may contribute to this disorder.
The following causes and underlying conditions can contribute to Periodic Limb Movement Disorder:
- Spinal cord injury or tumor
- Withdrawal from medications
- Sleep apnea
- Iron deficiency
Speak with your doctor to determine what is causing your experience. When you have a symptom linked to your episodes, there is a better chance you can actually treat the disorder. It is possible that just by treating the symptom, you can alleviate your PLMD.
The following medications have proven to be effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of Periodic Limb Movement Disorder:
It will be up to your doctor to determine which medications are going to be right for you and help you to notice some relief. Keep in mind that even when the symptoms and episodes disappear, it’s important to continue taking your medications, since they are most likely the reason why the PLMD has stopped.
Caffeine can intensify the symptoms of PLMD. Any products which contain caffeine such as tea, soft drinks, chocolate or coffee should be avoided. Many antidepressants have also been shown to worsen PLMD symptoms.
In some cases, you can also choose to try some alternative treatment options that may help. An alternative health specialist can guide you through some treatment options that are available to you.
These treatments may include:
Doctors will go over your medical history and ensure that you end up with the safest treatment possible. If you choose to work with a Naturopathic doctor and a standard physician, you will need to remain in constant communication with both parties so they know what treatments are being provided to you at all times. That will prevent either doctor from prescribing a treatment option that could have a negative impact on your Periodic Limb Movement Disorder and general health.
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