Restless legs due to nerve problems in the neck

Updated July 19, 2017

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. Primary restless leg syndrome is genetic, and symptoms begin when the sufferer is young. However, secondary restless leg syndrome is a symptom of a different condition, often one affecting the nerves in the spine, including the neck.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in the legs that can only be relieved by moving the legs. It can cause decreased sleep, which can make activities such as driving difficult. The legs regularly become uncomfortable and need to be moved. You may experience creeping, tingling and burning sensations. Restless leg syndrome can also lead to rhythmic kicking during the night.

Spinal Cord Injury

Secondary restless leg syndrome can be caused by damage to the nerves in the spinal cord. This can include damage near the neck, which may be caused by a wound, whiplash or a long fall. If you have damaged the nerves in your spinal cord, you may also experience a stiff neck and headaches, lowered bladder control and weakness.

Spinal Tumor

Spinal tumours rarely occur in the neck. However, when they do they can compress the nerves in the spinal cord, which can cause restless leg syndrome. Other symptoms of a spinal tumour include increasingly severe back pain, loss of bowel control and muscle spasms.


Treatment for restless leg syndrome usually involves trying to reduce stress in the patient, as stress may also contribute to the feelings of discomfort in the legs. However, when the disorder is caused by damaged or compressed nerves in the neck, treating those conditions should go some way toward curing restless leg syndrome. Damage to the nerves caused by a spinal cord injury will usually heal on its own, though the patient may be required to wear a neck brace to avoid further damage during the healing process. If a spinal tumour is compressing the nerves, it often needs to be surgically removed, which might be preceded by a session of radiation therapy.


If you are experiencing restless leg syndrome, you should discuss these symptoms with your doctor. This is especially important if you also experience any of the other symptoms described above that are associated with spinal injuries and tumours. These are serious conditions that require immediate attention.

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About the Author

Alexander Kennard started writing in 2003. He has written music reviews and articles for "The Reflector" at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada, and has been published on He has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Victoria.