WHEN LEGS GO ROGUE
YOU South Africa|5 August 2021
Often misdiagnosed, restless legs syndrome is an uncomfortable condition that can affect your quality of life – but there is relief out there. Here’s what the experts say
RICHARD VAN RENSBURG

IT WAS as if her legs had a will of their own. Every day at about 5 in the afternoon the torment would start.

“It was like something was crawling under my skin, and then it would pull and tug – I had no control over it,” Maria van der Wath says.

“Particularly in my left leg,” she says. “It could be painful too. My legs hurt sometimes – not a sudden, sharp pain, but rather a lingering ache deep within the bone.”

For nine years Maria, a broker and grandmother from Standerton, Mpumalanga, suffered the discomfort of restless legs syndrome (RLS).

Now, she says, she’s sleeping “like a baby” again after seeking medical attention.

She tried traditional remedies first. Some RLS sufferers, for example, swear that putting potatoes in the bed relieves their symptoms. Others say drinking a bit of Marmite mixed in warm water helps. But none of these homespun tricks worked for Maria.

“The only thing that helped a little was walking,” she says.

“I gained weight because when my legs were twitching and in spasm at night, I’d get up and walk to the kitchen. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d often eat.”

Eventually she heard of RLS and realised that could be her problem.

“I recalled that my dad used to complain about his legs, as did his younger brother.

“When I eventually went to see a doctor, he quickly diagnosed RLS and prescribed tablets. I take one every night, as well as magnesium and calcium supplements. Every evening, my husband and I take a walk around the block. It helps to be a little more active.

“I’m fine now. I sleep well, I’ve lost the extra weight and I’m getting on with my life.”

WHAT IS RLS?

If your legs feel uncontrollably restless, especially at night, it might not be your imagination. The syndrome causes an “uncomfortable, prickly feeling in the legs and the strong urge to move them to get some relief ”, says Dr Maurits Kruger, a homeopath and iridologist from the Sleep Renewal clinic in Gauteng.

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