Restless Legs And The Motor Cortex

Restless legs affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. Read all about it here!
Restless legs and the motor cortex

Restless legs (RLS) are difficult to describe. Discover the main characteristics of this syndrome and how it relates to the motor cortex in this article!

In fact, some people think their legs are moving on their own. But what actually happens is that they have a constant need to move their bottoms to make the uncomfortable feeling stop. Some people say they feel a tingle up and down their legs.

Man sitting on bed and suffering from restless legs

It’s half an hour after midnight. I’m trying to sleep, but it’s impossible. When I am about to fall asleep, I feel a tingling sensation in my legs. I’ll have to move them so I raise one leg and shake it in the air. I lift the second and repeat the movement.

This dot begins again a few minutes later. I get up and walk back and forth in my room, I massage my legs and even hit them a little. The tingling sensation has disappeared. I have managed to ward off the symptoms of restless legs enough to fall asleep.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), restless legs are a sensory motor disorder that has five main diagnostic criteria:

  • A strong and often overwhelming need to move the legs, often associated with abnormal, unpleasant sensations.
  • The urge to move your legs begins or gets worse when you rest or are inactive.
  • The urge to move the legs is temporary and partially or completely relieved when moving.
  • The urge to move the legs begins or worsens in the evening or at night.
  • The above four functions are not due to any other medical or behavioral condition.

RLS and the motor cortex

Some of the main causes of this condition are iron deficiency and intake of tricyclic antidepressants, as well as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, lithium and caffeine. However, new discoveries see a link between restless legs and an abnormal function of the motor cortex.

Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered a possible cause of this syndrome: Motor cortex hyperactivity.

Rachel Salas of John Hopkins University says that “the region of the brain that controls the legs shows increased cortical excitability in the motor cortex.”

restless legs in bed


Pharmacological treatment

  • Dopamine agonists such as ropinirole, pergolide or pramipexole.
  • Benzodiazepines help alleviate the tingling sensation and make it easier to fall asleep.
  • Anti-convulsants, especially gabapentin and carbamazepine.
  • Opioids can also be used because of their analgesic effect.

Non-pharmacological treatment

  • Having a sleep routine and going to bed at the same time every day.
  • To reduce or completely avoid the intake of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine.
  • Exercising often.

Conclusion on restless legs and the motor cortex

There is still a lot to explore when it comes to restless legs (RLS), to improve patients’ quality of life.

Reducing the symptoms associated with this syndrome will result in better sleep hygiene and quality sleep. It would improve the appearance of drowsiness, fatigue and mood swings.

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