‘Restless legs’ found to be common in those with fibromyalgia. Why?

Sometimes symptoms or medical conditions can have complex causes and cures, but sometimes they’re dead simple. For example, if someone is suffering from a tendency to cramping in their muscles, there’s a pretty good chance they’re low on magnesium and upping magnesium levels in the body will really help to alleviate or even stop their symptoms. The same is true of the condition dubbed ‘restless legs syndrome’.

This condition is characterised by sometime uncomfortable sensations, most commonly in the legs, and an urge to move. It often comes on when individuals are in bed. Officially, the condition has no known cause. But my experience in practice leads me to believe that, more often than not, magnesium deficiency is playing a part. And just as with muscle cramping, more magnesium usually does the trick in terms of taming the symptoms characteristic of this condition.

I was interested to read about a recent study which has found a link between restless legs syndrome and fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is another ‘muscular’ condition – and it is characterised by pain and tenderness in the muscles, particular certain ‘trigger points’ such as at the back of the neck or the upper part of the chest.

This study discovered that someone with fibromyalgia was more than 10 times as likely as someone without this condition to suffer from restless legs syndrome. In others words, there is a tendency for these two conditions to go together.

While the management of fibromyalgia, in my experience, can be complex, it is a condition that can often respond to magnesium (just like restless legs). This perhaps explains why these two conditions tend to coincide.

I recommend nuts as a magnesium-rich food, but usually suggest those with symptoms or signs of magnesium deficiency to supplement with about 400 mg of magnesium a day.

In addition to magnesium, there’s another couple of approaches I tend to explore for those suffering from fibromyalgia. One is to unearth and treat (if appropriate) any low thyroid function (hypothyroidism). The other concerns vitamin D, as deficiency in the nutrient can lead to widespread muscular pain.


1. Viola-Saltzman M, et al. High prevalence of restless legs syndrome among patients with fibromyalgia: a controlled cross-sectional study. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 2010;6(5):423-427

9 Responses to ‘Restless legs’ found to be common in those with fibromyalgia. Why?

  1. Deb 26 October 2010 at 11:19 pm #

    Hi Dr. Briffa, I have had cramping in my legs for several years and restless leg feeling. I have been supplementing with magnesium supplement for 4 weeks and my cramping and restless legs are gone. Thanks.

  2. Peter Andrews 26 October 2010 at 11:36 pm #

    Dr. Cannell of VitaminDCouncil.org believes a substantial proportion of fibromyalgia cases are actually misdiagnosed vitamin D deficiency. In any case, vitamin D may be helpful for restless leg syndrome as well.

  3. Lori 27 October 2010 at 12:31 am #

    I agree with magnesium being a muscle relaxer. Just yesterday, I wrote a post on magnesium helping with difficulty in swallowing. My post is here for anyone who cares to read it:


  4. Hans Keer 27 October 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Ever thought of eliminating grains, legumes and dairy? http://bit.ly/a9Gvjk

  5. Rose 29 October 2010 at 6:13 pm #

    I have Fibro..and recently discovered a magnesium product that I use topically..as well as add to water and soak my feet in it most nights…the nights that I do that..I sleep a great deal better, without the restless leg issue.


  6. Marion 30 October 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    Rose, I am interested to know which product you are using, this may help the aches I get in my neck and shoulders. I would be really grateful if you could give me the name. Many thanks

  7. Birthe Clark Hutchison 1 November 2010 at 10:37 pm #

    Marion, I suspect that the magnesium product which Rose is using is “Magnesium Oil” It is actually not an oil, only so-called because it is a bit sticky. One can also get “Magnesium Gel”. The products are condensed seawater with a multitude of healthy dissolved minerals and trace elements. The magnesium has to be Magnesium Chloride. If you google Magnesium Oil, you can find where to buy some. Hope this helps.

  8. Vin 2 November 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Magnesium (400 mg) and D (5000 IU) did nothing for my restless, twitchy, kicky leg.

    I didn’t exhibit RLS every night but when I did, I’d wake up the next morning very tired and my wife’d be pissed from all my twitching and kicking. So I went to a neurologist – he did all kinds of tests and gave me meds used to treat Parkinsons (?). I didn’t take it. To help my wife sleep better, we bought one of those new space-age posturepedic beds that don’t transmit motion/vibration.

    That was about the time I changed to a sugar-less, wheat-less, low-omega-6 diet. I’m not sure if my diet is fixing the problem yet…we’ll see.

  9. Rose 2 November 2010 at 11:52 am #

    It’s not the Briffa approach but I would strongly recommend checking out Dr John Sarno’s theories (Tension Myositis Syndrome) when it comes to neck and shoulder pains, particularly as expressed by Monte Hueftle at http://www.runningpain.com/.

    (I know it’s terribly American but you can’t win them all!)

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