Leg Shaking: Can't Stop, Won't Stop

I knew a girl and she looked like you
She never danced the whole song through
She put her hands in the air, let her backbone slip
She’d jump downtown and take a one-way trip

She used to shake
She used to shake
She had a saturated sweetness that was never fake
She used to shake
— Joe Breuner of Plan B fame ("Shake")

*Warning: The following material may be deemed inappropriate for those wanting to learn anything. If you wish to save the next 5-7 minutes of your life, turn back now. The end yields no educational value. There's not even a single citation* 

Growing up in a Korean (well, half) household, you tend to hear some phrases over and over. "Uh lun muh guh" - hurry up and eat. "Yul shi mee ____" - do ____ hard/work hard at ___. One I personally heard a lot was "Koh man tuh duh" - stop shaking. That was typically followed up by a slap to my leg as my mom would try and get me to stop shaking it. It worked. 

For about 8 seconds.

Inevitably, I would end up shaking my leg(s) again with the same perpetual cycle occurring with my mom. She always told me when I became a doctor I could do research and find a cure for it. Well here I am, a doctor. Not only do I not have a cure for it, but I don't even know what it is! Amanda has asked me about this multiple times and I have always had an unsatisfactory answer. Well that ends today! So my wife's question: 

Why Do People Shake Their Legs?

Now stop what you're thinking. I know what you're thinking. Yeah, I do.  

*Thought Bubble* Ben, this is Restless Leg Syndrome or something like it *End Bubble* 

But it's not! I've already looked into this once and really at least MY  leg shaking doesn't fit the criteria for RLS. I don't necessarily feel the itching, burning, bug crawling-like sensations that are typical. Also, I NEVER have this problem when sleeping. Really, those are the two classic components needed for the RLS diagnosis. I have neither.

So what is this then? 

I've asked this question myself many times as well and have even taken opportunities to ask others who know much more about medicine than I do. I've asked Neurology attendings. I've asked Medicine attendings. I've asked Rehab attendings. It is one of two go-to questions I have to kill time. That and what physicians feel is enough to convince them to treat Acute Otitis Media. Don't ask, it's just what I do. These questions have been a sacrifice as well because it sure didn't make me look any smarter. And after all that humiliation... 


No attending has ever given me any remotely close to satisfactory. 

"Nervous tick". "Bad habit". "I don't know". All examples of poor hand waving.  I've even looked into this myself a couple years back, which ended up being a fruitless endeavor. So what about this time? I'm obviously much wiser with my vast experience and clinical training. This time around I used new resources in a more intelligent matter. And after all of my hard work with my newly accumulated skills, I found... the same results. 

I can't find anything!  

I searched and searched and searched and couldn't find a single iota of actual data to explain anything to me. So what happens when my actual resources fail?  


And what happens when I can't teach anything?


(You may need to click on some of these to enlarge) 

Alex and Fatty believes it's "nervous leg syndrome"

Here's a new one - hypotension. From now on all my septic shock patients will be placed on leg jigglers. It's kind of like chest physiotherapy.

I like this one because the poster sounds so sure of themselves. Has to be DVT prevention. Must be a med student :D

This is obviously not limited to Korean moms... 

1. I think you meant "ask" not "as" 2. Please don't ask me, I already said I don't know!


and last but not least...


So hopefully that somehow made you forget that this was supposed to be an evidence-based blog. To be honest, it probably is related to RLS and my best bet for hand waving would be that it's on the low end of the spectrum of RLS. The solution? Well I don't have one but maybe Amanda's advice would suffice on this topic. She always proposes that you get "all the leg shakers" (myself included) in one room together so they can annoy each other. Elegant.

What did I learn from this? I'm a doctor now, but still have yet to fulfill my mom's maternalistic goal of curing nervous leg syndrome/RLS/sexual frustration/DVT prevention/hypotension.  In addition, all of my vast training and wisdom since last looking at this topic did not actually improve any fact hunting/data gathering ability. I'm still just that little kid who can't stop shaking his legs.

TL;DR:  I still can't find any data/information regarding non-RLS leg shaking.