“In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.”Psalm 4:8
I came across this verse last night during my daily Bible reading. After I read the day’s selections (slated to get me to finish the Bible in a year’s time), I promptly fell peacefully asleep, as the verse — and my heart — professed.
An hour later, my legs jerked me awake. I do not use the term “jerked” lightly. The episode begins with a tingling and muscle contraction in the tip of my tongue and around my mouth. Then a muscle in the top of my lower thigh, just above my knee, contracts just to the point before pain. The muscle contraction then moves from above my knee, wraps around the knee and invades the muscles of my calves before spreading down to my ankle and my feet. Sometimes my toes curl or my entire leg jerks. After about twenty seconds of rest, the cycle starts up all over again. Usually these contractions are worse in one leg than in the other, but both are affected. The hallmark of all of these contractions is that they are uncontrollable.
Traditional “restless leg syndrome” sufferers describe a creepy or crawling sensation that forces them to move their legs. In my case, I am not in control of my leg movements. They contract without my permission. The muscles contract whether I move my legs around or not. It’s gotten to the point where I wonder if I have developed a form of epilepsy. In the middle of one of these attacks, not only am I unable to control the contractions, but I also am unable to detect when the muscles have relaxed again.
Obviously I am not getting quality sleep. If I do manage to drift off to sleep despite these contractions, a particularly sharp one will jerk me awake again, usually within the hour.
In the early days of this problem, I applied Icy Hot to my leg muscles. The hot and cold sensations seemed to override the contractions and restless feelings so I was able to go back to sleep. Now I can’t feel Icy Hot on my legs — or anywhere else on my body, either. Then I switched to a heating pad to help my discomfort. Now, even on the highest setting possible, I don’t get relief from the contractions. I also do not always feel the intensity of the heat, especially at night when I am having one of these episodes. So I switched to capsasin, a derivative of hot peppers. The hot, burning sensation from this medication occurs only sporadically…usually not until I wake up in the morning! I bought compression sleeves for my legs. They just make my legs throb while the muscles are contracting. I did not use the homeopathic remedy for restless legs (Hyland’s Restful Legs) last night because they didn’t work on me in the past AND they made my heart feel strange, like it was skipping beats.
The only relief I find is when I stand up. So last night I got up out of bed at 2:22am and stood in my dining room with my iPad for a full thirty minutes. Just standing there. If I had enough duct tape I’d construct a device that would allow me to sleep standing up.
Obviously there is something going on with my nerves, aside from the usual anxiety disorder.
Western medicine has no explanation for restless legs. It has several pharmaceutical treatments for them of varying dosages, but not a cure. Mirapex. Requip. Neurotonin. These synthetic drugs sometimes work, sometimes they don’t work, and sometimes they require larger and larger doses to work effectively. Sometimes they have the unique side effect of causing a patient to wake up and suddenly vomit. Since my phobia is rooted there….the chance of me voluntarily taking something with that kind of side effect is just about zero. My anxiety over whether it would cause vomiting would keep me up all night even if it did make the muscle contractions stop!
Eastern medicine has non-drug therapies like acupuncture, acupressure, NET, NAET, and JMT to help treat patients. Many of these techniques have been used successfully for thousands of years — but the scientific research behind their success hasn’t quite caught up. Acupuncture releases endorphins in the brain, which relieve pain. Whether or not people’s bodies are really made up of zones of energy, as the ancient acupuncturists believed, is up for grabs. I don’t find anything in my Bible that discusses mitochondria and other cellular energy factories…but science tells me they are there. I’m not the kind of person who thinks that if the Bible doesn’t say it’s there, it’s not there. The writers of the Bible did not know about cells, mitochondria, DNA, proteins, and cellular division. Yet the scientific discovery of these things only enhances my belief in the existence of our incredibly complex Creator! Who else but the Creator of the Universe could have made us so specifically, with such attention to detail? If macroevolution was the means by which we exist in our current form, then why do we still have single celled organisms? Why didn’t they evolve like us? I don’t understand HOW God created, nor do I have to. I don’t have to know everything there is to know! After all, as Proverbs 20:24 teaches:
The Lord directs our steps,
so why try to understand everything along the way?
However, I DO want to understand what’s going on with my body, especially since it’s leaching out to my family as I struggle with constant fatigue. My poor husband was up all night with me as I tossed and jerked and read awhile, trying to distract my mind from the fact that the muscles in my face, stomach, legs and feet were undulating to a rhythm all their own.
Since I don’t want to take those drugs, what options do I have? I hesitate to seek out oriental medicine because of the unknowns. When I googled “Should Christians seek out Acupuncture?” I received information all across the board…from people who wrote that God is the one who created our trigger points and that anything that heals us is good in His eyes as long as we give ultimate glory to Him…to people who say that allowing an acupuncturist to pierce your skin is allowing demons to invade your spirit.
I have a more pragmatic view. I love the Lord. I know the Lord loves me. I know Jesus is my healer. When I had my hysterectomy, I prayed that God would guide the surgeon’s hands. Couldn’t I also pray that God would guide the acupuncturists hands? Is anything too difficult for the Lord? Even if those “out there” people are correct and acupuncture allows evil inside…couldn’t God use it to allow goodness inside?
What is the difference between allowing a surgeon to remove my uterus and allowing a technician to test my muscle response and prepare an acupuncture therapy for me? Is it better for me to ingest toxic, but legal, drugs, to mask my symptoms than it is to use non drug therapy that purports to not mask but HEAL the problem by stimulating the nervous system?
I read one website I probably should not have read, but I am genuinely seeking truth and direction. This particular website said that the reason acupuncture has been clinically proven to help with nausea and vomiting is because when demons exit the body they typically induce vomiting. The reason acupuncture gets rid of the pain is because Satan needs a “hook” to keep us open to New-age, mystical, one-world energy philosophies. This website did not give any proof except Biblical examples of laying on the hands and the verse admonishing us to keep ourselves pure of worldly trends and philosophies. They also said that occult practitioners use acupuncture.
So what’s a sleep deprived girl to believe?
I certainly don’t want an acupuncturist whispering incantations over me while they stick needles in my body. But I also don’t want to swallow synthetic drugs to help mask symptoms of a disorder nobody understands.
I do know that God designed our bodies to need sleep. Something is wrong with mine. I’ve prayed for healing. I’ve claimed healing scriptures over my body. The last thing I ever want to do is sin against God — I NEED him to love and accept me, not condemn me!
So. What do you think? Is it a sin for a Christian to get acupuncture? Do you have any verses you could share with me that might help me decide whether I need to go this route or a different one? My sleep deprived brain is feeling rather foggy today, so the picture is murky. I won’t pursue any therapy, Western or Eastern or something in between, until I can get a handle on what God wants me to do.
Or maybe I should just try the duct tape route. My husband could secure me against the wall with several strips across my shoulders, my waist and hips, my knees, and probably my ankles. You think I’m joking. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation talking, but I’m seriously considering it. At least duct tape doesn’t have any demonic controversy or sudden vomiting side effects. I wouldn’t be the first to try it, though.
Here’s one principal after she allowed her students to duct tape her to the wall:
The only thing is, though, if I did it, my feet would have to be on the ground. Otherwise those muscle contractions would strike, and I can’t imagine anything worse than being stuck in that one position all night long, with continuous, unrelenting muscle contractions. Unless, of course, it was being stuck in that position all night long with a full bladder.
So maybe duct tape isn’t the answer, after all.
I’m open to suggestions, though!