Recent research indicates that pain disorders, such as fibromyalgia and migraine, are associated with restless legs syndrome, suggesting a shared pathphysiology. Now, data published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders indicate a strong link between restless legs syndrome and multi-site musculoskeletal pain.
Currently, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is thought to be brought on by genetic background and iron deficiency, which alters the dopaminergic metabolism. This mechanism has also been indicated in chronic multi-site pain.
For the current study, David Champion, MD, of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues analyzed data from a cohort of participants from the Western Australia Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study who were followed for 22 years. A total of 1,072 participants provided data for study variables via questionnaire, which evaluated musculoskeletal (MSK) pain by duration, severity, frequency, and number of pain sites. RLS was considered present when 4 diagnostic criteria were met (urge to move, dysaesthesia, relief by movement, and worsening of symptoms during the evening/night) and if patients had symptoms at least 5 times per month. Participants were also asked to evaluate their sleep quality (very good, fairly good, fairly bad, and very bad), and negative emotional symptoms, as well as indicate their smoking status and body mass index (BMI).
Overall, 32 participants (3%) met all RLS diagnosis criteria, with prevalence twice as high in females compared to males (3.8% vs. 2%; P=0.096). Participants with RLS reported significantly worse sleep quality than participants in the reference group, and they also had significantly higher scores on all MSK pain variables and higher Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) scores, however no significant difference in smoking status or BMI was found.