The Effects of Cannabinoids on Restless Leg Syndrome

The Effects of Cannabinoids on Restless Leg Syndrome

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, restless leg syndrome affects between 7 and 10 percent of the U.S. population. Though the disorder affects both genders, it is more prevalent in women. Also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, restless leg syndrome causes a lot of discomfort in the legs, also causing a compulsion to move them.

Some relief from the symptoms of restless leg syndrome may be found by getting up and walking around. However, patients with restless leg syndrome are reporting successful therapeutic effects from using cannabinoids.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder of the neurological system. It may affect anyone, of any age, though the symptoms worsen as one ages. It is a common condition, affecting more people than type 2 diabetes.

Because aggravation of the symptoms occurs mainly in the evenings, it often interferes with sleep. Because of this, many people who have restless leg syndrome have a poor quality of life.

While restless leg syndrome doesn’t have a cure, there are a variety of treatment methods, resources, and coping mechanisms to support people who are trying to live with the disorder.

The symptoms of restless leg syndrome are easily noticed when one is in a state of rest, such as sitting to watch the television or when one tries to sleep at night.

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Symptoms of restless leg syndrome are commonly described as twitchiness in the legs. Other descriptions include “the sensation of ants crawling through the legs or carbonation running through their veins” – according to the National Sleep Foundation. Simply put, the following may show up as symptoms of restless leg syndrome:

  • Crawling, twitching, or tingling sensation deep inside the legs
  • A compulsion to move one’s legs to relieve the sensations
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Restlessness, which in many cases manifests as turning or tossing in bed, pacing the floor, or rubbing the legs unconsciously.
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Involuntary jerking or movement of the legs while at rest or even while sleeping.

The frequency and severity of restless leg syndrome vary across patients. While most patients who have the disorder feel relieved from the symptoms just by moving around, in extreme cases, even leading an active life may not improve the sensations.

Some patients with restless leg syndrome may find it difficult to fall asleep due to their condition, while others may not have any peaceful sleep all through the night. In moderate cases, the patients may not be able to sleep once or twice a week. Unfortunately, this time is enough to impair one’s ability to function during the day.

How Cannabinoids Can Be an Effective Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome

Today, quite a number of experts recognize cannabinoids as a legitimate and potential treatment for various diseases. Experiments on the effect of medical cannabinoids on restless leg syndrome are ongoing. Conventional treatments may cause negative side effects, are too expensive, or simply do not work. Cannabinoids may be a safe, natural alternative medicine.

A 2017 study showed that medical cannabis alleviated symptoms of restless leg syndrome in patients. After inhaling the weed, five of the six patients who participated in the study went into complete remission of their symptoms. A particular patient testified experiencing total relief after consuming the non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) found in industrial hemp. Substantial improvements in the quality of sleep were recorded in all six patients with cannabis and restless leg syndrome therapy.

Do Cannabinoids Have Any Negative Effect on the Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?

Even with the absence of studies or clinical trials on using medical cannabinoids in restless leg syndrome, patients are providing anecdotal evidence about their experiences with CBD and improvements in their restless leg syndrome.

Cannabinoids for restless leg syndrome work mainly by acting on the cannabinoid receptors of the brain to effect pain relief, coordination, and motor activity via the restriction of prostaglandin biosynthesis and therefore obstructing pain receptor pathways.

Restless leg syndrome, if it interferes with one’s sleep, may result in serious, long-term health complications. If a person is deprived of sleep, it may result in such issues as:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Compromised immune system
  • Insomnia
  • Reduced mental capacity.

For those who are suffering from restless leg syndrome, night sleep can be very agonizing. They may experience uncomfortable sensations in the legs that keep them awake, causing the patient to toss and turn in bed almost every night.

Insomnia is a major side effect of restless leg syndrome that may affect a person’s quality of life. Medical cannabinoids can help with this. Cannabinoids are a useful alternative to avoid some of the negative side effects of other types of sleep medications.

Cannabinoids for restless legs syndrome can make a person sleepy, relieve one’s anxiety, and alleviate pain through analgesic properties.

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Allen, R.P., Picchietti, D.L., Garcia-Borreguero, D. et al, Restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease diagnostic criteria: updated International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group (IRLSSG) consensus criteria─history, rationale, description, and significance. Sleep Med. 2014; 15:860–873.

Whiting, P.F., Wolff, R.F., Deshpande, S. et al, Cannabinoids for medical use: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA. 2015; 313:2456–2473.

Koppel, B.S., Brust, J.C., Fife, T. et al, Systematic review: efficacy and safety of medical marijuana in selected neurologic disorders: report of the Guideline Development Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2014; 82:1556–1563.

Heim, B., Djamshidian, A., Heidbreder, A. et al, Augmentation and impulsive behaviors in restless legs syndrome: coexistence or association? Neurology. 2016; 87:36–40.

Benarroch, E.E. Synaptic effects of cannabinoids: complexity, behavioral effects, and potential clinical implications. Neurology. 2014; 83:1958–1967.

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