a leg being massaged by a massage gun

Massage Gun as RLS Treatment

I have restless legs syndrome (RLS), which may or may not be exacerbated by the way my body deals with stress. I’m lucky enough not to have a genetic predisposition for addiction and have managed my migraines well enough that, after a stressful event, I rarely fall down the migraine with aura rabbit hole, but my muscles tend to take on my emotional stress.

I clench my muscles when I am stressed

Without realizing it, I clench every muscle in my body when I’m stressed. I clench my jaw in my sleep, my shoulders rise up to my ears when I’m stuck in traffic, and my lower body tenses when I’ve been sitting too long, trying not to wiggle my restless legs. I’ve caught myself clenching my glutes for no reason or sitting with my legs poised to jump.

It’s my body’s response to the emotional trauma and stressors I’ve experienced and, if I don’t think about keeping my body relaxed, its natural inclination is to be ready for attack.

Tight muscles or RLS – which came first?

As a result, I have chronic muscle pain, tightness, and sometimes injury. It’s sort of a chicken or egg scenario when it comes to my tight muscles and my RLS: are my muscles tight because of my RLS, or is my RLS worse because of my tight muscles? Either way, both demand treatment.

If I let my muscles get too tight, I’m less able to exercise and more prone to sprains, twists, or other injury. I’m also less likely to sleep through the night, creating a feedback loop of tiredness and restless legs that can be hard to break out of.

Gifting myself a massage gun

I’ve tried many things over the years and have found a combination that seems to help. Besides stretch therapy and pilates, I’ve been experimenting with ways to soothe my tight muscles at home on my own.

For Christmas this year, I gifted myself a massage gun. These rechargeable machines come in a few sizes and iterations, but I got a fairly basic model, the size and shape of an electric drill, which came with several attachments which are meant to target different body parts and with varying levels of pressure intensity.

Using a massage guns for RLS

For my legs, I usually choose a flat-headed, wide topper and turn the gun up to full speed. I blast my IT band, hips, shins, calves, and sometimes my feet. The effect is instantaneous. While I’ve found massage too painful or ineffective most of the time, the fast vibration of the massage gun helps soothe my tight legs and reminds me to keep them relaxed.

On days I’m reading or watching TV on the couch, I work through my tight spots. Instead of my RLS telling me to go to bed on these nights, I get to choose my destiny and usually have a better night’s sleep than if I’d skipped the gun.

Massage gun use alone will not cure my RLS, but I have found, anecdotally, that it helps me tackle the combination of muscle tension and restlessness that keep me up at night.

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