Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that causes chronic pain in the muscles and other structures such as the tendons that connect muscles to bones. One of the most common places for muscle cramping and pain in fibromyalgia is the legs. Fibromyalgia patients may also experience restless legs syndrome related to their fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia patients have a lower pain threshold than a healthy person, so their brains interpret signals that would normally not cause a painful sensation in most people as aching muscle and soft tissue pains. Some muscles may even cramp up, and the legs are particularly prone to cramping in fibromyalgia patients. When a muscle cramps, it is contracted more than it should be, for longer than it should be contracted. This causes a painful, achy sensation. Severe leg cramps can make it hard to fall asleep or even wake someone up from sleep. There are several different options for taking care of leg cramps, from massage to muscle relaxant medications. If you have fibromyalgia and leg cramps that are severe or frequent, treatment of this symptom should be discussed with your doctor as part of an overall fibromyalgia treatment plan.
A link has recently been discovered between restless legs syndrome and fibromyalgia. Restless legs syndrome is another disorder that not much is known about. Restless legs syndrome patients describe having certain uncomfortable sensations in their legs that cause them to want to move their leg muscles. Sitting still worsens the sensations, and moving around usually makes them better. For this reason, restless legs syndrome can interfere with someone’s ability to sit still, and it is particularly problematic when someone is trying to sleep. Not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep is common in fibromyalgia patients due to muscle pain and aches. If a person has fibromyalgia pain and restless legs syndrome, they may have even more difficulty with insomnia. Insomnia in people with fibromyalgia can greatly increase feelings of fatigue and interfere with everyday activities.
The sensations of restless legs syndrome are described differently by patients with the condition. Common descriptors for the feeling in the legs of restless legs syndrome sufferers include tingling, itching or cramping. Some patients may have a difficult time describing exactly why their legs feel extremely uncomfortable beyond having the persistent urge to stretch their leg muscles and walk around.
Medical experts are not entirely sure why people get restless legs syndrome, or why fibromyalgia patients are more likely to experience restless legs syndrome than the general population. Some cases of restless legs syndrome may be tied to another medical condition such as iron-deficiency anemia or kidney problems, but most restless legs syndrome cases are not connected to a serious medical problem at all. Treatments for restless legs syndrome include medication and home remedies such as massage, baths, relaxation techniques, moderate exercise during the day and decreasing consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Home remedies are generally tried before medication is prescribed. Some medications may relieve symptoms of restless legs syndrome for a while and then not work as well over a long period of time. It is also worth nothing that some prescription medications for other health conditions can worsen symptoms of restless legs syndrome as a side effect.