Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), like any “syndrome” is a cacophony of events, with many “causes”. Generally, we (non-brain surgeons and rocket scientists) would really like to find simple, quick and easy solutions for the things that trouble us. We would like for our mysterious RLS to be fixed with a quick stop by the pharmacy on the way home from work, so we can get on with living our lives… rather than having to spend months researching, and and trying to decipher what the experts write about, so we can translate an article into a therapy.
Here’s a helpful trend: the more simplistic our understanding, the more difficult it is to make sense of evidence. This applies not only to laymen, but to doctors, researchers, forensic technicians, physiologists, archaeologists and even theologians. There is a reason it could take five to ten years to earn a PhD in any given subject: there is a lot to learn… many parts to understand; many influences.
Here is a good article about RLS from John Hopkins. I have highlighted certain parts, and added comments…
For all the great research evidence uncovered, there are still gaps in understanding. The good news: other fields of study have been hard at work filling these gaps for decades. Moral of the story: if we really want to understand a complex syndrome, the best way to approach it is via interdisciplinary collaboration.
Basically: we are not slaves to our genes or biochemistry, or even our brain structure and function. Even with infants born missing parts of their brains, there are methods available to help focus proper stimulation of the brain to form new pathways.
Keep in mind that we can dump chemicals in the body, but unless the regulatory systems are working, the chemicals cannot go where they are needed. When a nerve fires off a signal, chemistry moves. Chemicals are used in the firing of the nerve, and chemicals fill the void made by what was used to fire the signal.
Nerves control regulation of chemicals, thru pathways that may change depending on the concentrations and conditions (ex: the way we shift from aerobic to anaerobic respiration depending on the physiological demands of the moment). There are many moving parts, and many options – nothing sits still, nothing is linear, or simplistic (“A causes B”). That’s what i like about this article – it touches on the complexity… it is also screaming for functional neurology input, but the researchers may not even know the field exists.
If a part of the brain has too much or too little of something, brain stimulation will cause things to shift. If you know the pathways (whether the chemical is “up” or “downsteam” in the pathway), you can start to shift things. Brain stimulation can alter brain chemistry. Why? Because the chemistry exists to serve brain function. Brain function does not merely react to chemistry like jerking away from a pin prick. If chemicals are pooling in an area, or not getting into the cells, using the brain in certain ways can alter this – because usage creates a cascade of events.
Stimulation of the dopamine system can also be achieved thru appropriate brain stimulation, not just injecting chemicals. How can we be sure the pooling of brain chemistry is not due to brain function, vs a chemical deficiency or excess? Both need to be evaluated simultaneously (“reduced receptor and transporter function in the brain”). “Dopamine receptors were decreased” – maybe because they are not being used, because the proper stimulation (nerve signals) are not occurring (“The increase in dopamine may be the brain cells response to the poor signal”).
Functional medicine has been dealing with serum vs tissue deficiencies for decades, but the researchers sound like they are re-inventing this wheel. Again – they could simply contact people outside their facility for help.
Genes are a whole other realm of misunderstanding (read Bruce Lipton’s work)… “Understanding how genes can affect our lives is quite complex”. Lipton started this understanding… it’s not one gene (“A causes B”); it’s many genes being activated by factors outside of the gene (“environmental” is not just chemical concentrations, it’s also nerve signals).
As the article says: how is it our genes create a good heart at birth, and over time, as we replace cells, we create a bad heart? Genes don’t control things – they are instructions – like books in a library. To make use of them, they need to be read, and the info needs to be put to use. The gene does not read itself (words do not read themselves). The gene does not build the house either – you have to read the book on how to build, and do it yourself.
We may not be able to change the genes, but we can influence how their information is expressed… thru environmental stimulation. That’s why they said gene structure is only “associated” with risk – there are many influences at work. Though there may be some tendency in a family’s gene pool that allows RLS to be the path of least resistance for brain function, this will vary for each member of the family, due to individual environmental simulations.
Solution Summary: in addition to measuring serum chemicals, we can get evaluated by a functional medical doctor and a functional neurologist (you may find one person who studies both).