I've never been a big fan as to how RLS is described but I've come up with something that most people can relate to. The tortuous sensation of RLS is enough to leave a person in tears and desperate for relief from the sensation and being unable to lie down and go to sleep. You find yourself kicking your legs, moving them, pacing around the room or house, or trying to massage the muscles, especially in the lower legs. One thing I noticed about myself was my left leg was affected every time and occasionally both legs were. I've even experienced it in my arms.
When my RLS symptoms began
My RLS began when I was in grade school and when I tried to explain it to my mother she told me it was growing pains. Since I was familiar with my legs aching at night and sometimes my arms I knew this was something totally different. I think about it now and how I suffered and think, "poor baby". But my mother didn't understand and I didn't know how to explain it to her. That was around 55 years ago.
How to explain what RLS feels like
So that's still a problem for many people, how to explain what RLS feels like. Have you ever had your reflexes tested by your doctor? A small rubber mallet is used to tap an area near your elbows and just below your knees. The knee is called the patellar reflex because it's just below the knee cap or patella. When the sensation is elicited your leg will suddenly jerk or kick and extend for a brief moment. It goes away as quickly as it came. Imagine if that sensation never went away...
Stephen Wright the comedian once said, "Have you ever leaned a chair back and you suddenly feel it tipping back too far and you catch yourself just in the nick of time, Imagine feeling like that all the time". Funny yes but how awful that would be if it were true. That's what RLS feels like. Having your patellar reflex tested and that sensation can go on for hours.
Sit up and listen
Call it what you will be it crawling or tingling or buzzing but if you're trying to explain it to someone who has never had it those words make no impression on them including your healthcare provider. Describing it in a way that's relatable makes them sit up and listen.
I do hope this little bit of information is helpful to those that are having difficulty trying to explain what RLS feels like. Of course, it's subjective and the severity can vary. But to me, it hits the proverbial nail on the head.
Have you taken our In America survey yet?