Symptoms of restless legs syndrome 

Restless legs syndrome typically causes an overwhelming urge to move your legs and an uncomfortable sensation in your legs.

The sensation may also affect your arms, chest and face, too. It has been described as:

  • tingling, burning, itching or throbbing
  • a "creepy-crawly" feeling
  • feeling like fizzy water is inside the blood vessels in the legs
  • a painful, cramping sensation in the legs, particularly in the calves 

These unpleasant sensations can range from mild to unbearable, and are usually worse in the evening and during the night. They can often be relieved by moving or rubbing your legs.

Some people experience symptoms occasionally, while others have them every day. You may find it difficult to sit for long periods of time – for example, on a long train journey.

Just over half of people with restless legs syndrome also experience episodes of lower back pain.

Periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS)

Up to 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS).

If you have PLMS, your leg will jerk or twitch uncontrollably, usually at night while you're asleep. The movements are brief and repetitive, and usually occur every 10 to 60 seconds.

PLMS can be severe enough to wake up both you and your partner. The involuntary leg movements can also occur when you're awake and resting.

Page last reviewed: 02/09/2015

Next review due: 02/09/2017