Managing RLS: Restless Leg Syndrome in the Workplace

April 11, 2019

Woman stretching her leg at her desk
Erin Ollila

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, can be a nuisance while at home, but even more of a pain at work. Your attention is meant to be on your work duties, yet all you can think about is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs to get rid of the uncomfortable sensations you feel. Managing RLS doesn't have to be a struggle. Here are three suggestions for easing RLS so that it doesn't affect your productivity at work.

Stretch and Massage Every Day

The Mayo Clinic suggests that individuals with Restless Leg Syndrome implement stretching exercises and gentle massage into their morning and bedtime routines. Consider bringing in a manual massage roller that you can use on your legs. Additionally, if your workplace offers a wellness component to your benefits, take part. Some companies sponsor walking challenges or workout classes. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Getting moderate, regular exercise may relieve symptoms of RLS/WED, but overdoing it or working out too late in the day may intensify symptoms." If you can start your shifts with a quick, gentle walk, you might find your symptoms better managed throughout the day.

Evaluate Your Work Space

If you spend the day sitting at a traditional desk, you may find managing RLS to be difficult. The National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reports that symptoms may worsen when someone sits for extended periods of time or is inactive. One way to remedy this would be to switch to a height-adjustable work station, so you can alternate between sitting and standing. Other work station options include bike desks and treadmill desks to keep you moving throughout the day. If you can alleviate your symptoms with small changes, you're bound to be more productive during the work day.

Talk With Your HR Staff and Managers

Don't be embarrassed to let human resources and your managers know about your condition and ask for reasonable accommodations for managing RLS. Let them know if there are any specific circumstances where you find yourself struggling the most, like sitting through long meetings. They may suggest shortening meetings or recommend taking breaks to give all participants a chance to stretch during the longer ones. Restless Leg Syndrome isn't something that goes away over time, so asking for accommodations early on is important.

You may also want to consider telling your coworkers about your RLS, so they can help accommodate you. By making adjustments in how you work, you'll be more productive.

Most importantly, know that you aren't alone and there's nothing to be ashamed of. NINDS estimates that seven to 10 percent of the U.S. population may have Restless Leg Syndrome. Make the necessary adjustments to reduce symptoms and set yourself up for success at work.

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