Here are some exercises to help those managing Restless Leg Syndrome. Begin the seated exercises by sitting tall with your feet flat on the floor. Maintain good posture throughout.
By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Seated Leg Circulation Exercises for Restless Leg Syndrome
• Heel-Toe Rock: Alternate between lifting the heels, then the toes. Repeat 5 times.
• Heel Push: Pull both feet back slightly toward the base of the chair. Raise the heels of both feet so that only the balls of the feet are touching the floor. Next, lean slightly forward from the hips (keeping the back straight) and place both hands on top of the right knee. Using the weight of your upper body, push the right knee down so the heel goes to the floor. Raise the heel back up and repeat several times. Move the hands to the left knee and repeat the exercise.
• Knee to Chest: (Note: If you have osteoporosis avoid this exercise.) Place hands under the thigh of one leg just above the knee. Gently lift the knee toward chest 5 times. Next lift the same knee and hold it there while you perform 5 ankle circles in each direction. Repeat with other leg.
• Ankle Motion: Straighten one knee. Point and flex the toes of the straightened leg 5 times. Then rock the ankle side to side 5 times (inversion and eversion). Repeat with the other leg.
Standing Leg Stretches for Restless Leg Syndrome
Stand behind a sturdy chair for support. Lengthen the spine and maintain good posture throughout the exercises.
• Soleus Stretch: Take a tiny step back with one foot so the toes are even with the heel of the other foot. Keeping both heels on the floor, sink straight down, bending the knees, but keeping the torso in good postural alignment. You will feel a stretch above the heel cord on the back leg. Hold for a count of 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
• Gastroc Stretch: Hold onto the back of the chair for support. Take a large step back with one foot. Bend the forward knee*, and keep the back leg straight. Keep the toes of both feet pointed forward. Lower the back heel down to the floor. You will feel the stretch in the belly of the calf muscle of the back leg. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Release the stretch by raising the heel. Then sink back into the stretch again and hold for 10 seconds. *To avoid strain on the forward knee, be sure the knee is directly over the ankle, not in front of it.
• Hamstring Stretch: Hold the back of the chair for support. Bend the supporting leg slightly as you hinge forward at the hips and reach forward with one heel (keeping the knee straight). Pull the toes of the forward foot toward the shin and feel the stretch in the back of the thigh . Hold for the count of 10. Repeat on the other side.
• Calf Stretch: First, take a large step forward. Bend the knee of the forward leg while keeping the back leg straight and the back foot firmly planted on the ground. You should feel the stretch in the calf muscles of the back leg. Be sure the forward knee is not bent past the (forward) ankle. Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Change legs and repeat.
Seated Leg Stretching Modifications
• Soleus Stretch: Keep both heels on the floor and raise the toes of one foot toward the shin (dorsiflexion). You will feel a mild stretch above the heel cord. Hold for a count of 10 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.
• Gastroc Stretch: Straighten one knee and pull the toes toward you (dorsiflexion). You will feel a mild stretch in the belly of the calf muscle. Hold for 10 seconds. Release the stretch by relaxing the ankle, then stretch again for 10 seconds.
• Hamstring Stretch: Scoot to the front edge of the chair. Extend one heel forward, resting it on the floor. Pull the toes of the forward foot toward you (dorsiflexion) and straighten the knee. Support your upper body by placing your hands on the thigh of the bent leg. Keep your head up and back straight. Bend forward at the hip. You’ll feel the stretch in the back of the thigh of the forward leg. Stretch for a count of 10, and repeat on the other side.
• Calf Stretch: Sit toward the front of the chair. For this exercise you may want to put a ball or pillow behind your back to support the spine. Begin by extending one leg forward and straighten the knee, lifting the leg off the ground. Pull the toes of the extended leg back toward the shin (dorsiflexion). Hold the stretch for 10-15 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
Other Exercises for Restless Leg Syndrome
These exercises can be done from the seated or standing position.
• Bounce: Bounce on your heels. Make the movement small. Try to get into a rhythmic vibration.
• Shake: Lift one leg off the ground at a time and gently shake it.
• March: March with your toes only, then march with your heels only. Finish by marching with the entire foot.
• Pat and Tap: With your palms open, pat and tap up and down the legs.
Relaxation Techniques To Help Manage Restless Leg Syndrome
For best results, practice in a quiet, darkened, room. Play peaceful music in the background to help induce a relaxed state. Lie on your back. With your head comfortably supported, close your eyes. Breathe deeply, in for a count of 4 and out for a count of 8. Repeat 5 times. Return to normal breathing while you do the following exercises.
1. Tense the buttock muscles by squeezing the buttocks together. Release and notice the difference between the tension and the relaxation.
2. Tense the muscles on the front of the thighs by straightening the knees and tightening the muscles around the kneecaps. Feel the tension. Then let go and feel the relaxation.
3. Tense the muscles on the backs of the thighs by bending the knees slightly and digging the heels into the bed. Feel the muscles working, then relax. Notice the change in how the muscles feel.
4. Tense the shin muscles by pulling your feet and toes up (dorsiflexion). Feel the tension in the muscle on the front of your legs. Then let go completely and feel the relaxation.
5. Tense the calf muscles by pointing the toes down (plantarflexion). Feel the tension in the muscles. Then let go and feel the tension leaving the muscles.
6. Finish as you began with 5 more cycles of inhaling deeply for the count of 4 and exhaling for the count of 4.