Shaking Legs

What Is Shaking Legs Syndrome?

The shaking legs syndrome, also called the restless leg syndrome (RLS) is one of a number of disorders that can cause the legs to move, twitch, or shake uncontrollably. Some of these disorders, such as dystonia, myoclonus, and Parkinson's disease, generally affect other parts of the body as well, and may or may not cause uncontrolled movement in the legs.

Most of the time when only the legs are involved the disorder is restless legs syndrome. In most cases RLS is an irritant and an inconvenience, especially when one is trying to sit still or trying to sleep. At times however, RLS can be incapacitating. While primarily affecting adults, shaking legs can sometime affects children, and is most common in children whose family has a history of the disorder, although it can be brought on in some cases by an iron deficiency.

The causes of this condition are not always known, although it is generally believed that an imbalance of a certain chemical found in the brain, dopamine, may be at the root of the problem. Dopamine plays a role in the brain's sending messages to the muscles to control movement.

A shaking legs condition is usually alleviated by walking around, since the condition usually arises while sitting or lying down. While walking around can help, it's of little consolation to someone trying to get some sleep or sit through a movie.

A Treatable Disorder - Shaking legs is generally a treatable disorder although there can be exceptions as the cause is not always known. What is known is that certain lifestyle changes can help cure or even prevent the disorder. Regular exercise, and following a consistent sleep schedule are known to help, as are relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, or breathing exercises. If shaking legs occur mainly while sitting down, the condition often is lessened if the person affected keeps mentally active, that is, keeps his or her mind on something else rather than what the legs are doing.

Caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol are all believed to contribute to the problem. Sometimes just cutting back on one or more of these can help. Stretching and massaging the legs often will minimize shaking when experienced. Simple stretching can help when walking around may not be practical at the moment.

Treatment Using Medications - There are medications available to treat shaking legs, ranging from sedatives, to anti-seizure pills, to a dopamine replacements. Some medications used in the treatment of epilepsy and Parkinson's disease are also effective in treating RLS. It might be worth mentioning that there is no apparent connection between RLS and Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, so there is no danger in taking these medications.  Like any medication, there can be side effects or a medication can lose its effectiveness over time.

Symptoms Vary Considerably - One of the difficulties in finding a general cure for shaking legs is that the symptoms are not always the same from one person to the next, or at least the description of what the person feels is not always consistent. Only about a third of those affected indicate they feel any real pain. Some describe a feeling of just needing to move, and nothing else. Others describe a creepy-crawly sensation, like worms crawling in their veins, or that their legs feel like they are being subjected to electric shocks. Still others say their legs seem nervous or they have fidgety feet. When pain is felt, it is usually described as an ache rather than something sharp.

Shaking legs often appear to follow a schedule, with the disorder occurring at certain times of the day or night and not at others, irrespective of what the affected person is doing. One theory is that the levels of chemicals in the body such as melatonin and the aforementioned dopamine, vary with time, and an increase or decrease can contribute to the problem.

There have been cases where the equivalent of shaking legs has been experienced in the arms, but such cases are quite rare, and not necessarily considered to be related.