Medication for Restless Legs Syndrome Helps Me Feel Like a Normal 26-Year-Old

RLS can strike at any age—and doctors still aren't exactly sure why or how. Hannah Trahan, a children's speech therapist in Dartmouth, Mass., has experienced RLS symptoms for most of her life. The condition disturbed her social life and sleeping habits for years, but prescription medication is finally helping her legs get some much needed rest


hannah-trahan
Hannah dreads long car rides and flights, but her new prescription helps her cope.
(HANNAH TRAHAN)
The first time I tried to tell my parents my legs hurt, I was 8 or 9 years old. We were on a road trip from New Hampshire to Virginia when I told them, "I need to move, my legs hurt." There were no rest stops for miles, and the more I bugged them, the more annoyed they got. I remember getting the feeling, Wow, they think I'm crazy.

The sensations in my legs stayed with me as I grew, but I kept quiet. I didn't bring it up again until I was 20, when television commercials for Requip began airing. Finally, I had an explanation, and my parents understood that it was a real problem: restless legs syndrome, or RLS.

When I went to see my doctor, I told her my symptoms (I fit the four criteria necessary for diagnosis) and she confirmed my suspicions. I was tested for iron-deficient anemia, a common cause, but I seem to be one of the many patients who has RLS for no known reason.

There was only one medication on the market for RLS at the time, which had just recently been approved. One of the side effects was drowsiness, and I work with kids; I have to be peppy and ready to go! Being sleepy isn't fun for me. So I opted not to go on prescription meds at the time.

My doctor suggested I take Tums at night, because the calcium in them might help relax my muscles. That didn't work very well for me, but I did find that leg stretches before bed seemed to help me fall asleep more easily.

What RLS feels like
Whenever I'm sitting still, my legs start to feel tight. You know that feeling after a really tough workout? Well it's like that, only for hours versus a couple of minutes after the gym.

On a really bad day I'll have that kind of tightness and, if I ignore it, my muscles will feel like they'll explode if I don't get up and move. That's the only way I can describe it. My leg muscles feel like they're twisting and expanding and I know if I don't move them I'll go insane. I'll be sitting and jump up all of a sudden in one second flat because I'll have this crazy urge to move.

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As told to: Lisa Freedman
Last Updated: April 24, 2008

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