How Can Physiotherapy Help When You Have RLS?

I know from several fellow sufferers that they benefit from stretching exercises from the physiotherapist for their restless legs. These exercises do not necessarily arise from physiotherapy alone. Athletes are also familiar with these stretching exercises. However, the physiotherapist may be able to give appropriate instructions if you have physical complaints.

The stretches I’ve seen are probably not the only exercises that can help with restless legs. There are also exercises for the arms. RLS can spread to other parts of the body, such as the trunk and arms. I myself do yoga exercises every day, combined with stretching exercises that I know as an athlete.

I understand from the fellow sufferers that it is important to do the exercises every day. So it’s a matter of keeping track. RLS is a chronic and progressive condition. You’re stuck with it for the rest of your life, and the symptoms are likely to get worse over time. Anything you can do to ease the suffering is a good thing.

In this blog I take a closer look at physiotherapy and how you can benefit from this. I ask the following questions:

  1. What does physiotherapy look like for restless legs?
  2. What physical therapy exercises can help control the symptoms of restless legs?

Physiotherapy

In part, a physiotherapist will give advice that any other therapist or doctor will give you. These are, for example, sleeping tips. It can also be diet and lifestyle advice. He or she will likely talk about the importance of exercise and about relaxation exercises or yoga. Massage of the legs may also be discussed and which attributes (such as a foam roller) you can use to do this yourself.

There is a physiotherapy treatment method that appears to help restless legs. By helping I mean that fewer complaints are experienced by the person with RLS. The idea with restless legs is that with this treatment is better nerve mobility in the pelvis and legs.

The method is called traction Straight Leg Raise (tSLR). Lying down with the legs stretched out, the physical therapist raises one leg and puts it back down. The physiotherapist then grabs the foot of that leg, performs a traction and brings the leg up again. A traction means that the leg is pulled lengthwise. The physiotherapist repeats this process a few times and the leg rises a bit higher each time. Better mobility is created. Then the physiotherapist does the same with the other leg.

Exercises

With regard to exercises, the physical therapist will work with the client to determine which specific exercises are apt. The choice of this will partly depend on a person’s general fitness, age and what suits someone’s body. In connection with the restless legs, exercises will be chosen for the calves, the front and back of the thighs and the feet. If you also have RLS in your arms, exercises for that area are added.

The parts of the body are interrelated, so the stretching exercises work through the body as a whole. During exercises for the calves you also stretch the Achilles tendon. When stretching the thigh muscles, there is an effect on the muscles in the hips and buttocks. During exercises for the arms, you stretch muscles in the shoulders and chest.

There are numerous exercises that you can do from physiotherapy. These are not only stretching exercises, but also dynamic exercises to loosen up certain areas in the body. The physiotherapy includes muscle strengthening exercises that make your body stronger and create a better balance.

Fellow sufferers

The stretching exercises that several fellow sufferers told me about consist of exercises for the calves, the thighs and the arms. The aforementioned fellow sufferers ideally do the exercises three times a day and then three times counting to ten times. Some people benefit enormously from it, I have been told.

The exercise I’ve heard most of the good stories about is the one for the front of the thigh. It is the exercise in which you grasp the ankle of one foot from a standing position and bring your heel in the direction of your buttock.

For me personally, this wouldn’t be the first exercise I would think of in RLS. I would first choose an exercise where you stretch the calves. I would do the above exercise for balance and for the muscles that are attached to the knee joint. I know it is good to train those muscles as well, otherwise your knees will hurt.

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