March 30, 2021

Can Restless Legs Syndrome Affect Other Parts of Your Body?

The short answer from a sleep expert

Restless leg syndrome

Q: Can restless legs syndrome affect other parts of your body like your arms?

A: Typically, restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects one leg or both legs. But sometimes it can affect other areas of the body, such as the arms and torso. When this happens, it’s usually a sign that the condition is worsening.

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With RLS, the areas of the brain and the pathways that connect to those areas are mainly responsible for sensations in the legs. So it usually starts off in the legs, but in severe cases it may spread to other parts of the body.

Restless legs syndrome can also be associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS). These movements can be seen in a sleep study with most patients with RLS, but PLMS can be seen in people who don’t have RLS and usually doesn’t affect sleep quality.

If you’re experiencing RLS, try developing a relaxing bedtime routine like taking a warm bath and reading a book outside of your bed. Light stretching and walking can also help relieve symptoms. Or try a weighted blanket, light massage or a warm or cold compress. And remember, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine can all negatively affect RLS.

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– Sleep expert, Andy Berkowski, MD.

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