Migraine Tied to Restless Leg Syndrome

New research points to possible links among migraine, bruxism, and restless leg syndrome (RLS). In a cohort study of patients being treated for RLS, more than half of patients were found to have symptoms qualifying them for diagnoses of migraine and bruxism. The authors of the study suggested the three conditions could share a common cause. The preliminary findings were presented at the annual meeting for the American Neurological Association, and were reported by Medpage Today.

Researchers conducted a survey of 470 patients with RLS who answered extensive health questionnaires. Sixty percent of patients reported grinding or clenching their teeth at night (bruxism), and 83% had previously been diagnosed with migraine. Fifty-two percent of patients showed signs of both conditions.

Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder causing extreme discomfort in the legs (and sometimes arms) such as pins and needles sensations, itching, and/or "creepy crawly" sensations that arise when sitting or lying down, especially in the evening. Patients experience an irresistible urge to move around in attempts to stop these symptoms, which can disrupt with their ability to sleep.

Lead author of the study, David Dickoff, MD, suggested that the co-occurrence of RLS, migraine, and bruxism in one patient may be explained by genes. Nearly half of RLS patients said they had family members who suffer from chronic headaches, 8% had at least one close family member with all three conditions, and 24% close relatives with two of the conditions.

Dickoff explained that bruxism could actually be considered restless jaw syndrome, and suggested the bruxism and RLS could potentially be the same disorder. In his study, 41% of RLS patients said they had arm symptoms corresponding to leg pain. Dickoff pointed out that RLS can often be confused with other pain conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and temporomandibular joint misalignment. In fact, 236 patients said they had previously undergone surgery for some type of chronic pain but only half of those patients were satisfied with the surgery outcome.

Earlier research has suggested that roughly three quarters of patients with both bruxism and RLS had a decrease in jaw symptoms after taking dopamine drugs for RLS. Although more research is needed to confirm these preliminary findings, it's possible that patients with RLS may benefit from treatments for migraine and bruxism.


Gever J, et al. Common cause for bruxism, restless legs, migraine. Medpage Today. October 17, 2013.