Is “restless arm syndrome” a real condition? Why would restlessness occur only in the legs?

“While restless leg syndrome is most commonly experienced in the lower extremities, it can affect the arms and shoulders,” says Walter Gaman, MD, FABFM, board certified in family medicine and the author of several award-winning books including “Age to Perfection: How to Thrive to 100, Happy, Healthy, and Wise.”

“Instead of referring to it as ‘restless arm syndrome,’ it’s simply lumped with the diagnosis of restless leg syndrome,” adds Dr. Gaman.

“Restless arms generally are not the first symptom of restless leg syndrome, but appear after the initial diagnosis.

“Restlessness in both upper and lower extremities is common in pregnancy, especially toward the end of the pregnancy.”

Natural Treatments for
Restless Arm Syndrome

If you don’t have a routine exercise program, then jump on board. A physically fit body is less likely to experience restlessness in the limbs.

If the restlessness in your arms – that persistent compulsion to keep moving them about – occurs after you get into bed at night, do some yoga that involves stretching out the arms and shoulders shortly before you retire for the night.

A good yoga move that will stretch out the upper body is the child’s pose, depicted below.

Cut back on caffeine, and eat at least five servings a day of any combination of fruits and fresh raw vegetables.

Cut back on sugar and fill up on nutrient dense foods like nuts, seeds, lentils and steamed vegetables.

If you can’t fall asleep due to restless arm syndrome, then get out of bed and do something interesting with those arms and hands.

  • Transplant the houseplants you’ve been meaning to transplant.
  • Vacuum and take out the rubbish, load or empty the dishwasher, fold the unfolded cleaned laundry, hang the new curtains, clean the baseboards, hang a picture, play the piano, etc.
  • Do some tension tube exercises or movements with light dumbbells. Or shadow box.

Restless arms want to be moved, so you may as well make the movements productive. Go at it for 30 minutes, then slip back into bed with your worked-up shoulders, arms and hands that will welcome a rest.

walter gaman, md

Dr. Gaman is a partner at Executive Medicine of Texas and is with the Staying Young Radio Show 2.0 podcast.