What’s Behind a Bouncing Leg? Consultants Clarify


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Many habits come and go. Bitter polish rid me of nail biting; a teasing grandmother freed me from nervous knuckle cracking. However there’s one which has caught round for so long as I can bear in mind—I’m *at all times* shaking my leg each time I’m sitting down. Generally it is a free bounce from the knee; different instances it is extra my foot and ankle which are quickly tapping.

In coffeeshops, on dates, whereas using the subway, and all through work calls, this fidgeting is so omnipresent that I not often discover it till a buddy locations a steadying hand on my leg to quiet the tapping. This behavior isn’t distinctive; my dad, brother, and a number of other associates do it, too.

Why will we subconsciously shake our legs? And is there something that may be executed to tame the behavior? I spoke to a psychiatrist and a neuroscience professional to listen to what they must say about this frequent tic.

Taking inventory of my leg shaking

As I began engaged on this story, I spent two weeks monitoring the when, the place, and why of the behavior. I’d be ready for a buddy at a restaurant and left alone with my psychological to-dos for a second too lengthy… and my boot would begin clicking towards the desk. Or I’d be on a Zoom name listening to particular person after particular person current, figuring out that my flip is approaching; with a mixture of nerves and anticipation… faucet, faucet faucet.

I first puzzled if there have been any exterior elements that impacted my bouncing leg. However I discovered that the behavior doesn’t discriminate primarily based on location, time of day, whether or not or not I’ve firm, or what sneakers I’m carrying. (I ship my condolences to anybody that’s been round me throughout my classic faucet shoe idler part.)

Nevertheless, I did discover a development in how I used to be feeling. I used to be usually bored; drained; feeling anxious, burdened, or insecure; in bodily ache; or excited.

What causes leg bouncing, in line with science?

There might be quite a few explanation why we find yourself bouncing our legs with out fascinated by it. Attending to the supply might be the important thing to calming the shake.

Stress and nervousness

Anxiousness issues have an effect on greater than 31 p.c of the U.S. inhabitants, in line with the Nationwide Institutes of Well being. The elevated cortisol ranges imply a better coronary heart price and a compensatory want to maneuver or “let it out.” That’s as a result of motion will increase blood movement and may launch pressure that’s being saved in muscle tissues, making tapping a superb coping mechanism.

“Actually, medical doctors encourage train, as a result of it regulates nervousness and temper [and] leg shaking is, in a sure sense, a type of train,” explains Cheryl Collins, MD, a prime psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. “One mind-set about it’s as a mini HIIT.”

As psychologist Serenity Serseción, PhD, beforehand instructed Nicely+Good, fidgeting “has an identical however smaller impact to train when it isn’t doable, reminiscent of in a piece scenario.”

One other technique to de-stress? By way of a aware stretch session: 

An try to pay attention

Based on a 2015 research, “analysis in kids with consideration deficit hyperactivity dysfunction (ADHD) means that repetitive actions enhance focus and a spotlight.” This identical impact might account for the elevated incidents of leg shaking whereas working from residence. Dr. Collins explains that the stimulus can assist quiet stressed or hyperactive elements of the mind and even assist with focus, particularly when coping with a “detrimental stimulus” reminiscent of boredom or distraction.

An excessive amount of caffeine

One other contributing issue might be your soda or espresso consumption. “The consumption of stimulants, reminiscent of caffeine, has the potential to accentuate the speed and incidence of leg shaking,” each as a result of it’s a neurological stimulant and since elevated caffeine consumption is usually linked to fatigue or exhaustion—elements that exacerbate restlessness, mind fog, bother focusing, and nervousness, notes Higher Assist.

A necessity for bodily launch

Not too long ago, I’ve been nursing a hip and backbone harm that has pressured me to take a step again from operating—previously, an integral a part of my morning routine that rid me of quite a lot of pent-up power. With out it, that power has had nowhere to go and neuroscience professional and founding father of BrainTap, Patrick Porter, PhD, explains that I’ve possible been utilizing my leg bouncing as “a unconscious technique of bodily launch.”

When it’s one thing extra critical

Not all leg shaking is equal. It is very important distinguish between “easy leg shaking or fidgeting—an indication of nervousness, stress, or boredom—and stressed leg syndrome, a acknowledged neurological dysfunction characterised by a powerful, usually irresistible urge to maneuver one’s legs,” says Dr. Porter. “If leg shaking is accompanied by discomfort or ache…it’s important to hunt well being recommendation.”

Must you tame the behavior?

With a niggling sense of insecurity, I requested three associates their ideas on how my leg shaking behavior impacts them. Two laughed and stated one thing to the impact of, you’ve at all times executed it, however we actually all do it. One joked about how her new job was going to make one leg 10 instances stronger than the opposite as a result of she faucets all day. The third famous that, regardless of not being totally aware of it, the tapping sound and corresponding motion within the nook of her eye “truly does add a little bit of stress…I don’t assume I spotted till you talked about it, however it seems like we’re in a rush. Like we’re late for one thing.”

Dr. Porter acknowledges that “leg shaking is likely to be perceived as an indication of nervousness or impatience by others, which might result in miscommunication or misunderstanding in social or skilled conditions,” he says. “In quiet or shared areas, this repetitive motion might be distracting or annoying to others.”

There isn’t a apparent hazard that comes with leg shaking (so long as it’s not accompanied by ache), and the motion can usually really feel useful. However it’s generally distracting, can take a toll in your productiveness, and may trigger a way of restlessness or contagious agitation within the individuals round you.

If it bothers you, Dr. Porter suggests “recognizing once you’re shaking your leg and understanding the triggers” to assist handle the behavior. He recommends getting common train, limiting caffeine consumption, practising wholesome sleep habits, altering your posture, and utilizing stress administration strategies reminiscent of meditation, deep respiratory, yoga, or BrainTap. You can too tackle the nervous feelings that might be a set off with an expert therapist. Equally, substituting the behavior with one other movement-based conduct like squeezing a stress ball might additionally present reduction, notes Dr. Porter.

The extra I give it some thought, I understand that my leg shaking has been a means that I’ve exercised management in conditions the place I really feel that I lack it. For me, being aware of the behavior and writing down emotions which have triggered the tapping have been useful in limiting its frequency. However in contrast to nail biting and knuckle cracking, I feel my leg shaking will follow me for some time.


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