Fibromyalgia, Restless Legs Syndrome Overlap

Many People With Fibromyalgia May Also Have Restless Legs Syndrome and Poor Sleep Quality, New Study Finds

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on October 15, 2010

Oct. 15, 2010 -- People who have fibromyalgia are much more likely to also have restless legs syndrome, according to a new study. Restless legs syndrome is a baffling disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and/or the urge to move the legs.

The study, published in the Oct. 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, found that 33% of people with fibromyalgia also had restless legs syndrome, compared to 3.1% who did not have fibromyalgia.

The findings are important because sleep disruption caused by restless legs syndrome may exacerbate the symptoms of fibromyalgia, researchers say.

But the good news, they say, is that restless legs syndrome can be treated and may improve the quality of life of people who have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia affects 2%-4% of the U.S. population and is more common in women, according to the American College of Rheumatology.

Sleep Disturbances Are Common in Fibromyalgia Patients

“Sleep disruption is common in fibromyalgia and often difficult to treat,” Nathaniel F. Watson, MD, one of the authors and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Washington in Seattle, says in a news release. “It is apparent from our study that a substantial portion of sleep disruption in fibromyalgia is due to restless legs syndrome.”

The study involved 172 people with fibromyalgia, 93% of whom were women. They were compared with 63 people who were free of pain and fatigue. Those in the control group were younger, with a mean age of 41, compared to 50 for those with fibromyalgia.

A measure of sleep quality showed that problems with sleeping were more severe among people with fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome.

The researchers conclude that a substantial portion of sleep disturbance found in patients with fibromyalgia may be related to restless legs syndrome.

They suggest that doctors routinely ask fibromyalgia patients about the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, because treatment may improve their sleep and quality of life.

Show Sources


News release, American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Viola-Saltzman, M. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Oct. 15, 2010; vol 6: pp 423-427.

American College of Rheumatology.

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