Restless leg syndrome can be a bitch. There I said it. If you are going through suboxone withdrawal and you have RLS, I am sorry. It won’t last forever, and there are a few things you can do at home to make it less sucky. When I went through withdrawal, my most significant pain points were anxiety and RLS. I would kick my legs like I was a donkey, tense and relax them, and groan in frustration. I practiced some Thai massage techniques on myself and I would lift weights. These were my saving graces.
RLS is thought to be to be caused by low levels of dopamine, which makes sense that you might have RLS while going through suboxone withdrawal. We hear a lot about dopamine, but what is it really? Dopamine (DA) is a neurotransmitter, meaning it sends messages between brain cells and it communicates information to the rest of the body. DA can function either as an inhibitory or an excitatory neurotransmitter. It is involved in movement, memory, attention, sleep, pleasure/rewards, behavior, and cognition. DA also inhibits prolactin production, which is responsible for milk production. DA is responsible for your brain thinking, "yes, let’s do that awesome thing again," or "no, let’s not ever do that lame thing again."
DA also functions in several parts of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The central nervous system is responsible for the brain and the spinal cord, and the PNS is responsible for everything else. In the PNS, DA acts as a vasodilator, inhibits norepinephrine (NE) release—in short, NE is responsible for an increase of heart rate and blood pressure, inhibiting digestions, think fight or flight—and is involved in our immune system function to name a few things.
Having too low dopamine levels can cause lack of motivation, fatigue, apathy, low libido, mood swings, sleep problems, inability to concentrate, and amongst other things, restless leg syndrome. To help RLS from the inside out, we need our body to build back up DA levels; this is not as easy as taking a pill. DA in the blood cannot cross the brain-blood barrier; instead, we need to eat more of the building blocks of DA. As Hippocrates said, “let your food be your medicine and your medicine be your food.”
To increase your DA levels, eat magnesium and tyrosine-rich foods. Tyrosine is an amino acid that is a building block of DA. The great thing about eating your nutrients is that your body will take what it needs and leave the rest. Unless you eat 20 bananas, which I doubt anyone other than my four-year-old would do, you are not going to overeat magnesium or tyrosine.
Food to eat includes chicken, turkey, almonds, apples, bananas, beets, green leafy veggies, green tea, oatmeal, sesame and pumpkin seeds, turmeric, and watermelon are a few of the foods that will help your body make dopamine. A side note on oatmeal, it is a superfood; I did a write up on it the other week. The great thing about it is that it tastes delicious with apples, bananas, and almonds added to it. It's a superfood for people in general, but especially for those detoxing from suboxone.
Okay, we have all heard it. Exercise will help you with RLS. If motivation is low and you are having a hard time getting your ass off of the couch, phone a friend. Have your friend come to get you out of the house and on a walk. If you have a gym membership, go lift some heavy weights: do some leg presses, squats, lunges with weights, etc. You can always do some exercises in the privacy of your own home. Burpees are a golden standard, squats, lunges, wall sits, etc. Other ideas for leg workouts: a leg heavey yoga session, lots of horse stance, twerking, any style of dance, leg press your child. There are so many options, just do something to work out your legs.
If you have access to Thai massage by someone that won’t technique you, go get it. Technique-ing is what I call it when a person will only do the one sequence that they learned and won’t or can’t stray from it, so you end up getting your calves massaged when you actually needed your shoulders worked on for an hour. It can also be when someone goes through the motion of giving a massage but is missing the aspect of actually wanting to help you.
I made a video talking about massage techniques to do at home. It is the first video I have made, so bear with me on this. It was a steep learning curve and I am putting it out into the world raw and unrefined. It is too hard to describe self-massage in written word, but I will try. In the video, the massage portion starts at 2:49.
Herbal Compresses: Hot balls of herbs massaged into your legs. These are awesome. The smell of the herbs is also therapeutic. Buckwheat or rice compresses will feel nice as well, but there is something extra magical about herbal compresses with the heat, the steam, and the smell. To purchase herbal compresses visit https://www.karenwitthoeft.com/product-page/herbal-compress.
Raw sesame oil: massage this into your legs. Then massage it into your legs again, and then massage it into your legs again. In the video, I didn't massage it in as many times as I usually would have.
Compression: place the part of your forearm that is closest to your elbow onto your leg and lean into it. Hold for 30 seconds or more. Mmmmm. That feels good. Move to another spot.
Beating: with your fist, beat your legs, one at a time, for at least a minute each.
These are things that can help anyone with RLS, not just those going through suboxone withdrawal. If you are going through suboxone withdrawal, eating well is going to be important regardless of whether or not you have RLS. I am going to rephrase that, if you are a human, eating well is going to be important regardless of whether or not you have RLS. This is also a true statement of exercise and of self-massage. It comes down to self-care. You deserve to be happy and healthy, take the time to ensure that you are.
Education, A. C. (2016, March 17). Neuropsychobiology: Dopamine, GABA, Serotonin and Acetylcholine. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMuuCS2h5IE&t=972s&index=2&list=PLHE8e9fCn7q_jwjbhF3OKbNvhU2u1VT5p