Overview of Multiple Sclerosis and Restless Legs Syndrome

Research shows that people with Multiple Sclerosis are about four times more likely to have Restless Legs Syndrome than people in the overall population. Restless Legs Syndrome is a sleep disorder that is usually associated with jerking leg movements called periodic leg movements. The condition could be troublesome to sleep in and might contribute to the general fatigue common in people with Multiple Sclerosis.

The Symptoms

The symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome are characterized by unpleasant feelings in the legs along with an urge to move them. The sensations may include:

  • Tightness
  • Tingling
  • Pulling
  • Itching

These often come on during periods of rest especially at night. They may make it tough to stay or fall asleep which results in sleep-onset insomnia.

If you have Restless Legs Syndrome, it is probably contributing to the Multiple Sclerosis-related fatigues that cause you to lose sleep. The main cause of fatigue for people with Multiple Sclerosis is the demyelination of nerves and the progression of Multiple Sclerosis.


While these symptoms can be due to Restless Legs Syndrome that co-occurs with Multiple Sclerosis, take note that Multiple Sclerosis could cause symptoms that imitate Restless Legs Syndrome as well. It includes:

  • Paresthesias

The unpleasant sensation is included in these which occur mainly in the lower legs and feet. It feels like tingling or numbness as well as pin-and-needles. These sensations are also very distinct from the unpleasant sensations of Restless Legs Syndrome as there is no relief from when the person is moving.

  • Extensor spasms

These occur once a limb stiffens and the person is unable to bend the joint. These cause the limb to jerk away from the body. Some extensor spasms can be so sudden and strong that the person can fall out of a bed or chair.


Depending on how frequent your Restless Legs Syndrome acts up, the following treatments may be used:

  • Avoidance of aggravating factors, possibly including certain medications
  • Mentally stimulating activities, such as doing crossword puzzles
  • Reduced caffeine intake
  • Moderate regular exercise
  • For symptomatic relief such as bicycling, walking, soaking the affected limbs, and leg massage, including pneumatic compression
  • Neurontin is used for the treatment of neuropathic pain which is a common symptom in patients with multiple sclerosis
  • Benzodiazepines or benzodiazepine agonists such as Valium and Klonopin. These medications have been used with success, but may also cause fatigue to worsen. They were likely to only be used if you need some help for a week or two at a time, as they can be habit-forming.
  • Medications that increase dopamine in the brain such as Requip and Mirapex

If you have Multiple Sclerosis, you are likely to experience mixed unpleasant sensations, as well as difficulty sleeping and fatigue. Several people with Multiple Sclerosis say that fatigue is their most disabling symptom. Add sleepless nights because of Restless Legs Syndrome, and it may mean a complete inability to function. Fortunately, Restless Legs Syndrome is very treatable. If you have symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, it is recommended to visit your neurologist.

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