Is Rheumatism Related to Restless Legs?

On a fellow sufferer’s forum for people with restless legs, I linked restless legs to rheumatism as a result of my blog about RLS in fibromyalgia. A fellow sufferer reacted a bit curtly with the question what rheumatism had to do with restless legs.

I didn’t think this was such a nice response at first. Later I decided that I could also give this question a positive twist. I could write a blog about it!

The reason I made the link between restless legs and rheumatism on the forum is that a significant group of people with RLS also suffers from rheumatic complaints. That is striking to say the least.

Some research has already been done in the medical world into the possible connection between the two conditions. However, there are still many questions.

What is rheumatism

Rheumatism is a collective name for a large number of related, chronic conditions. I think rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are the most well-known.

In these conditions, something goes wrong in the immune system. This causes chronic inflammation. Pain and stiffness are usually the result. Rheumatism causes movement problems. People with rheumatism also often suffer from fatigue.

Rheumatism is in many cases hereditary. Smoking or being overweight can also play a role. No cure has yet been found for rheumatic diseases. However, there are medicines to slow down the development of rheumatism or to reduce the pain.


I myself have had rheumatic complaints since I was 40. In the colder months of the year I have constant infections in my phalanges. I have to deal with this for more than half of the year.

Inflammations are most likely from November to March, especially when the temperature is around zero degrees Celsius. In October, April and May I suffer less regularly. Between June and the end of September I am symptom-free.

My hands are locally red, thick and painful during an inflammatory attack. The inflammation usually lasts a few weeks per spot. In other places, a new hearth may have arisen.

It’s hard to do things with my hands in the winter months. I then painfully notice how you need your hands in almost everything you do.

When I was in my early forties, I went to the doctor once. The young doctor indicated that this was a case of osteoarthritis and that I had to learn to live with it. After this announcement I could to leave.

I found this approach quite disappointing. I would have appreciated a little empathy or thinking along.

Rheumatic complaints

A fellow sufferer recently asked whether her morning stiffness might have something to do with restless legs. The reactions showed that quite a lot of fellow sufferers also suffer from this.

It later turned out that said fellow sufferer also had complaints in her hands. I suspect she has osteoarthritis like me.

People with RLS do not always make the link between rheumatism and restless legs. I recently read that both rheumatism and RLS may be related to an iron deficiency. That seems interesting to me.

Personally, I don’t have much to do with stiffness in the morning. However, I do have regular pain in my back and buttocks. During the day I always make sure to get enough exercise. Aside from a run, I do stretching exercises. Before going to sleep I practice yoga.

Regular exercise is important, regardless of which complaint or condition you are dealing with. The older you get, the more important this is.

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