Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), or Ekbom Syndrom, is considered a complicated internal disease in Chinese medicine. RLS is not detailed in ancient or modern Chinese medical texts as a specific syndrome, but displays particular attributes that are recognized in Chinese medical theory. The patterns of disharmony described below liver-herbalare separated to help describe this condition, but in actuality, restless leg syndrome will have combined attributes.
Internal Liver Wind and RLS
This is because Chinese medicine views the human body as a microcosm of the larger world around it that cannot escape or defy the laws of nature. Our body will react to internal heat just as a bonfire reacts to heat; by creating a chaotic wind. In the body, pathogenic Wind is seen as spastic movements, spasms, and chaotic jerking of limbs.
Heart Blood Deficiency and RLS
In Chinese medicine, Blood is very grounding and Heart Blood helps to ground the mind so that we can sleep soundly at night. Because RLS tends to affect us at night and disturbs sleep, Heart Blood Deficiency is often a complication. Iron deficiency has been associated with RLS which would be a clear indication of Blood Deficiency. Additionally, Blood Deficiency becomes much more prevalent with aging, and RLS tends to begin affecting people after 50. Blood Deficiency can give rise to Blood Stagnation and would account for the strange sensations and tingling experienced with RLS.
Kidney Yin Deficiency and RLS
Kidney Deficiency is a prevalent underlying condition with restless leg syndrome. The Kidney energetic organ system in TCM is closely related to the spine, brain, and nervous system, and RLS has been associated with a brain metabolism defect according to western medicine. Additionally, Kidney Essence is depleted as we age, and RLS is associated with aging. Essence is also related to familial conditions, and there appears to be a genetic link to RLS. The Kidneys are the source of all Yin of the body, and Yin Deficiency can cause Deficient Heat and Internal Wind. Also, conditions associated with Yin Deficiency are often more reactive during the night time.
Wei Qi Deficiency and RLS
In Chinese medicine, the Wei Qi is likened to the immune system; in actuality, it is much more divers in its functions that just immune responses. The Wei Qi circulates on the surface of the body during the day protecting us from external pathogens, but returns to the internal body and organs during the night. If the Wei Qi is compromised, it may not circulate correctly back internally at night and can be a contributing factor to RLS.
More about Wind and TCM
In Chinese medicine, involuntary tics and spasms are attributed to "Liver Wind". In health, the Liver is rich with Blood, and the Liver is able to circulate Blood and Qi freely. If the Liver is out of balance or undernourished, Qi stops circulating and Blood becomes deficient. Because Blood is cooling in nature, the Liver naturally begins to heat up with Blood Deficiency and Liver Qi Stagnation. If you have ever studied a bonfire, you would notice that a wind tunnel develops over the flames as the heat rises; this is the concept in Chinese medicine as heat rises and creates a chaotic wind.
This concept of Internal Liver Wind is a primary theory in Chinese medicine, but is a very foreign concept for the western mind. Logic tells us that RLS is a neurological disorder of unknown origin, and Internal Wind sounds like ‘wu-wu’; however, in practice, Chinese medicine is quite functional in addressing RLS utilizing this functional concept.