What Restless Legs Syndrome Feels Like


"When it gets really bad, you just want to cut your legs off" (1:05)
RLS can affect legs, arms, and shoulders. The more you try to suppress it, the worse it gets, says Donna, 51.

Donna, 51, experienced her first symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS) as a teenager. Living in silence for years, she convinced herself that she was crazy: She didnt understand why she always had to move her legs, why she couldn't sleep at night, and why it was so hard to explain the feeling to other people. At times—running up and down the stairs or riding her exercise bike at 3 a.m.—she was close to suicidal. (Watch Donna discuss RLS at night.)

Donna was diagnosed in her 30s, and began the arduous process of finding a treatment that worked for her. Shes tried almost every class of prescription drugs available, along with home remedies such as avoiding caffeine, staying hydrated, and practicing meditation.

After years being physically and emotionally exhausted, Donna quit her job and applied for disability benefits. In addition to RLS, she also suffers from migraines and fibromyalgia (both made worse by lack of sleep) and is the caretaker to her aging parents, which has become a full-time job. (Watch Donna discuss how RLS changed her life.)

Today, Donna relies on opiates and non-opiate painkillers to keep her legs somewhat under control. On a good night, she gets a few hours of sleep at a time, and she finds encouragement through an online support group.

“It makes me happy to be able to help people through the group, because I meet people that are as desperate as I used to be,” she says. “There are a lot of people who want help out there.”

De–stress your life, sleep better, and conquer depression with the latest news and insights on mood management, plus special offers.

More Ways to Connect with Health
Advertisement