Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is defined by an irresistible need to move associated with leg paresthesia. Two additional features are essential for diagnosis: (1) worsening of symptoms at rest with temporary relief by activity, and (2) worsening of symptoms during the evening and/or during the night. The suggested immobilization test (SIT) has been developed to evaluate the presence of these criteria. This test quantifies leg movements and leg discomfort during a 1-hour period of immobility prior to bedtime. We used the SIT to evaluate the effects of immobility on leg discomfort and leg movements experienced by 19 patients with RLS and 19 control subjects. Results show that immobility significantly worsens both leg discomfort and periodic leg movements (PLM) in patients with RLS but not in controls. Patients with RLS showed a higher leg discomfort score (32.6 +/- 15.1 mm vs. 5.7 +/- 7.9 mm; P < 0.00001), a greater maximum leg discomfort value (63.4 +/- 27.4 mm vs. 13.7 +/- 23.0 mm; P < 0.00001) and a greater PLM index (88.4 +/- 62.6 vs. 10.4 +/- 20.6; P < 0.00004) than control subjects. These results further validate the use of the SIT as a diagnostic and research tool for RLS and confirm the contention of the International RLS study group that RLS symptoms worsen at rest.
Copyright 2001 Movement Disorder Society.