The People's Perspective on Medicine

Best Home Remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome

Millions of people suffer from restless legs syndrome. Many of the drugs for this condition have nasty side effects. Are there best home remedies for RLS?
Female legs in bed, closeup. Woman body and skin care, tired legs after working day or fitness workout

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects 5% to 15% of adults (Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, Dec. 15, 2016). That means as many as 30 million Americans suffer from RLS. Roughly 6 million people are so severely impacted by restless legs syndrome that it seriously impacts their quality of life. Sleep is frequently disrupted. Adults are not the only folks affected. Many children and adolescents are also plagued by RLS (Pediatrics, Aug. 2007). These folks need Help! But the drugs that are often prescribed for RLS carry some strange and worrisome side effects. That’s why many people seek the best home remedies for this incredibly upsetting condition.

What’s It Like to Have Restless Legs Syndrome?

It’s almost impossible to describe restless legs syndrome (RLS). People who have never experienced the creepy-crawly sensation that quiets only upon moving the legs have a hard time imagining what victims go through.

One person explained:

“The best way I can describe it is unbearable sensations that start as uncomfortable and then keep increasing and increasing in your legs (not pain but a terrible feeling). All you want to do is get rid of the feeling by walking, moving your legs on the bed, punching or rubbing your legs, oft times to no avail.”

Emily wrote to us from work:

“I am currently at work and my legs are relentlessly jumping under my desk. It is so frustrating; almost unbearably so.”

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

The cause of RLS remains mysterious. It’s one of those conditions for which doctors use a fancy $50 word: “idiopathic.” Here is the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of idiopathic:

“arising spontaneously or from an obscure or unknown cause.”

Doctors describe it this way (Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Dec. 2013).

“The term idiopathic is often used to describe a disease with no identifiable cause.”

Medications that can Trigger RLS:

Often overlooked are drugs that can cause restless legs syndrome. Here are some stories from readers:

Susan describes how a common antihistamine triggered her symptoms:

“Benadryl, specifically its primary ingredient, diphenhydramine, absolutely aggravates my Restless Legs Syndrome. I know to avoid this drug and anything that contains it, such as the ‘PM’ medications.

“Also, certain nausea medications do it. The one I recall is phenergan. There are several anti-nausea meds that will bring on an RLS episode. Zofran (ondansetron) is the only anti-nausea medication I can take.

“Don’t assume your physician knows this. Several doctors I spoke with knew nothing about it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m allergic to these drugs, and list them on my medication listing accordingly.

“Here’s one more thing I learned through my own experience, and heard from someone else: White Zinfandel wine. This is the only wine I know of that aggravates my RLS, but to be safe, I avoid all ‘rose’ wines. I don’t have this problem with reds or whites.

“One parent and all of my siblings had/have RLS. While on the subject, I’m thankful People’s Pharmacy and other medical sites are calling attention to Restless Legs Syndrome. There are/were people fortunate not to have RLS, but who liked to make fun of or snicker about it. They don’t know how lucky they are.”

D. writes about tramadol withdrawal and RLS symptoms:

“The biggest problem (issue) I believe many people have in getting off a drug like tramadol is the extreme restlessness, along with RLS, that makes sleeping almost impossible.
 I had terrible akathisia-like symptoms getting off tramadol. While tramadol works wonders for treating those with restless legs, it also causes rebound problems when withdrawing.

“Tramadol’s unique makeup make it a complex drug. It acts not just as an opiate, but also a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor. I believe this plays a role in treatment of pain, but also mood and antidepressant properties.”

Doctors Treat Restless Legs Syndrome with Powerful Drugs:

Doctors have four medications that they can prescribe to help people with RLS. These drugs all affect brain chemistry.

Three target the neurotransmitter dopamine and are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease. They include ropinirole (Requip), pramipexole (Mirapex) and the transdermal patch rotigotine (Neupro). Like most medications, these can cause side effects such as dry mouth or drowsiness. Some people fall asleep in the middle of the day with no advance warning. Needless to say, this can make driving dangerous.

Geni writes:

“I have used all the drugs recommended for RLS. I have had this condition all my life and I am 68. None of the drugs have helped. I had a side effect of going to sleep during the day – teaching, driving, very embarrassing and very dangerous.”

A Scary and Unusual Side Effect:

In addition, these drugs can cause some unexpected reactions. Most people are taken aback when they discover that they have an uncontrollable urge to gamble, shop compulsively or binge eat. One woman wrote us:

“I thought I’d finally found the best medication for my RLS. Then I started to gamble. It is out of control to the extent that my husband and I have separated. I also lost my good-paying job and am in financial trouble.

“I can’t stop gambling, though I never gambled before in my life. I want to stop taking my pramipexole, but then what will I do about my RLS? If I don’t take my med I can’t sleep and I’m in pain with all the leg jumping.”

Another person confided:

“I was put on Requip by a neurologist specializing in movement disorders. Despite the maximum dose of Requip, my RLS was worsening. In the meantime, I was spending a lot of money shopping online for things that made absolutely no sense–for example, 12 used nativity sets.”

The fourth medication is related to a common anticonvulsant, gabapentin. Gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant) is approved for treating pain after shingles (postherpetic neuralgia) as well as for RLS. When the FDA approved this medication, it required a warning that the drug “may cause significant driving impairment.” This may be due in part to sleepiness and dizziness. Other side effects include headache, nausea and fatigue.

Best Home Remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome:

It’s no wonder that many RLS patients look for alternative approaches. Some people find it helpful to put a bar of soap under the bottom sheet near the legs. One gentleman told us that since he started using a popular brand of soap, he has been able to reduce his dose of Mirapex and get good sleep.

A visitor to our website reported:

“Thanks to People’s Pharmacy, I’ve used soap (slivers of any brand, sample-size bars of any kind) under the bottom sheet, sprinkled where my legs will be. It’s miraculous!”

Not everyone is so enthusiastic about soap in bed. Another person wrote:

“I have had great success with my nightly RLS by rubbing lavender oil on my thighs. Sadly, the soap did not work for me, as it would have been a lot cheaper.”

There is even some science to support the use of lavender oil to calm RLS symptoms (Nursing and Midwifery Studies, Dec. 2015). Such home remedies won’t work for everyone, but they are less likely to cause unpleasant side effects.

This “Doubting Thomasina” combined soap and lavender for successful treatment of RLS and neuropathy:

Skeptic Discovers Benefit of Soap for Neuropathy

We know this is going to sound self serving…but we have created a very special flat bar of soap with extra lavender. It goes under the bottom sheet and many people tell us it works surprisingly well for leg cramps and RLS. Here is a link to read more about Bed Soap from The People’s Pharmacy. And as if that shameless self promotion isn’t enough, here is a crazy product we created after we heard from a woman who came up with a remedy for RLS during airplane flights. A link to Leg Soap from The People’s Pharmacy.

More Best Home Remedies for RLS:

Iron Supplementation for RLS:

Doctors have been writing about the use of iron supplements for RLS for decades. This comes from the Canadian Medical Association Journal (June 17, 1967):

“In 1944 the Swedish neurologist Ekbom described an old but almost completely neglected syndrome which he called “the restless leg syndrome”. This syndrome is characterized by an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the legs, occurring usually at night or during periods of rest, and relieved by movement of the  affected limbs.

“Various forms of therapy have been used with variable success. The best results have been with vasodilators and intravenous iron. Until more experimental work has been done in this syndrome, we will have to wait for a more acceptable explanation of the pathogenesis and a more rational form of therapy.”

By the way, the scientific name for RLS is Willis-Ekbom disease. It was obviously named in part for Dr. Ekbom. Sir Thomas Willis also gets credit. He described the fidgets in a 1672 paper.

Fast forward more than 50 years to a systematic review and meta-analysis of the medical literature on “Iron Supplementation for Restless Legs Syndrome” in the European Journal of Internal Medicine (Feb. 21, 2019)

“In conclusion, iron is efficient and safe for the treatment of RLS. The current evidence from our meta-analysis supports the use [of] iron, both oral or IV, as effective therapy for patients with RLS.

“Further research should determine the dosage and regimens of the iron preparation, and should be adequately powered to detect treatment response and safety profile.”

We encourage people to discuss this best home remedy for RLS with a health professional to determine a reasonable dose of iron.

Emily shared her simple remedy:

“I find that the absolute best home remedy for my RLS is a cup of chamomile tea. It really is wondrous. It’s too bad that it makes me so sleepy. I don’t trust it enough to drink during the day; I only drink it to sleep at night. It makes me feel like weights are attached to my feet and they just sink comfortably into the mattress.”

What Are Your Best Home Remedies for RLS?

Share your own experience with restless legs syndrome below in the comment section. What has worked and what didn’t? 

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I am 85 years old and have had restless legs frequently (but not every night) off and on for the past 10 years. When this happens, my legs are ‘jumpy’ and also slightly ‘achy’. When this occurs, the muscles in my calves and hamstrings are always extremely tight. First I do a few minutes of stretching exercises, to stretch all these muscles in my calves and hamstrings and Then I massage magnesium lotion into the muscles of my calves, pressing the lotion vigorously with my fingers into the tight calf muscles (this is somewhat painful, since the muscles are tight). After this I immediately feel a sense of relaxation in my calf muscles and can get to sleep without my legs being restless.

I take abilify low dose for depression, but it seems to stop the RLS; if I don’t take it, the RLS comes back – don’t know whether that’s a withdrawal effect or an off-label use of abilify.

I have had issues with having that creepy crawling feeling in my legs which will wake me up from a sound sleep. I have used other homeopathic for difficulties & I purchased the Restful Legs formula by Hyland’s & have found it works very quickly & it makes those feelings go away. An excellent product as far as I am concerned.

Yoga is my go-to treatment for RLS. It has really helped me so much so that I experience RLS only on occasion when I’ve been lax in my yoga practice. It is a great alternative to drug therapies.

These are the things that have helped me (hopefully) beat RLS:
1 – Very low dose Niacin – usually about 50mg.
2 – Reducing Glutamate by avoiding excessive MSG and utilizing valerian, cat’s claw, and magnolia bark when needed.
3 – Balancing my electrolytes and keeping hydrated (but not drinking excessive amounts of water).
4 – Taking L Tyrosine to improve dopamine levels.

Someone I know used CBD to stop pain in her worn out thumbs & was surprised when her restless legs stopped jittering. I don’t know how much she took, but it was quite a small dose.

I have leg problems and sought my doctor for answers. She took a couple of iron blood tests because she told me that RLS is often caused by low iron. I was at the very low end of normal in both tests, so it was written off as “no problem there.” I guess optimal is not in many doctors’ diagnosis. I still have issues with my legs. I know taking iron supplements is a bit risky, so I guess I am sort of stuck with the problem since I don’t think I dare go on supplements. I am on good magnesium and a high enough dosage that I know my leg problem is not due to low magnesium. I am curious if anyone else has had iron “in the low range” and still suffering.

There’s a special kind of vitamin E that works for me. It has different names. The one I use now is called “water solubilized vitamin E”, produced by Nature Made. In the past, I used one called “mycelized” E. This doesn’t work for everyone, I’ve found, but it works wonders for me. The RLS disappears in about 10 minutes.

Because it’s water soluble, it moves through the body quickly, and avoids the problems of taking too much vitamin E.

Special case (dialysis-associated RLS), but here is a study confirming vitamin E together with vitamin C can be helpful:

I took clonazepam for 20 years for RLS but my RLS suddenly became worse last year! Trial & error proved my RLS was now aggravated by taking Melatonin and cold meds! I am now taking Gabapentin 300mg @ bedtime, plus magnesium and iron supplement. I was addicted to clonazepam and still having erratic sleep but RLS is much improved! Now to wean myself off Gababentin.

I have had RLS for as long as I can remember, and I’ll be 71 soon. I would classify mine as mild most of the time and occasionally moderate. Luckily I do not have it every night. On the nights when I do experience it, the symptoms either start as soon as I hop into bed, or, I easily fall asleep, then awaken about 60-90 minutes later with symptoms.

The link between low iron and RLS symptoms is well known, but less well known is the link between low folate and RLS symptoms. When my diet is low in folate, the symptoms are worse and more frequent, so I take calcium folinate and (6S)-5-Methyltetrahydrofolic acid (NOT regular old folic acid) daily and eat as many cooked leafy greens as I can.

I have also found that taking a high quality CBD Oil before bed helps about 85% of the time.

I have heard that with RLS you are low on magnesium. I use Magnesium Gel from Bio Inovations and it works within 5 to 10 minutes for me.

I wear compression socks when I get RLS. It works instantaneously.

soap in a sock works for me……small piece of soap in a sock and in a few minutes my RLS is gone

DH in North Carolina

Carole, you might try a magnesium lotion. I use Mo’Maggie, but there are lots of others.

I take a Magnesium supplement at night for my RLS, with excellent results. On the rare occasion that the supplement isn’t enough, I also rub magnesium oil on my lower legs. This helps almost immediately.

I read your column always in our local paper,I find for RLS,I drink tonic thru out the day,it has natural quinnine in it works.

Many years ago, I complained to my Dr. about restless legs and she prescribed Folic Acid 1mg tablet l time daily. It has to be a prescription, not over the counter. It works!

What about medical marijuanna, such as the Simpson Oils? I believe we should start doing real investigation into the all natural benefits of a god-given plant (hemp).

The best cure for restless leg syndrome is to not take any supplemental vitamins or minerals. I had R.L.S. and leg cramps for years before I discovered the cause.

I’m convinced that RLS, at least
in my case, is related to the foot and lower leg cramps I also get. I think both come from an electrolyte imbalance. My remedies are to take 400-500 mg of magnesium nightly and to make sure I drink at least 48 oz of water daily. I also take a potassium based blood pressure medication and a multivitamin. Stretching and exercise also help. I have not had an episode of RLS in years. Recently I noticed more foot and leg cramps. That’s when I discovered how important water is for me.

I take 1 Tsp of powdered magnesium night and morning. I have used Calm but I find Spring Valley magnesium works just as well and is cheaper. That is 350 mg twice a day. I also walk every day and do some stretching exercises before bed. No more leg cramps. Sleeping better too.

CBD drops turn my restless legs OFF. Wonderful.

I’m not sure if what I have is actually restless leg syndrome. I feel throbbing in random parts of my legs, almost like a bruised feeling but less painful and more annoying. At night, it is much worse and keeps me awake. If I take a daily iron supplement, it stops happening. If I stop taking the iron for 2-3 days, it returns.

I used the soap under the sheets which seemed to help for awhile, until it didn’t, even though I would change out the soap bars. What I find works best for me now is to take a 400mg Magnesium supplement before bed. I also find that “tapping” (EFT) can help.

Using a weighted blanket seems to help with my restless leg problems. I get better sleep these days and would recommend trying it.

It may sound weird but I have a squeeze bottle of mustard by my bed. When I have a spell of RLS I take a large tablespoon of it, and my legs calm down almost immediately so I can sleep.

As I think back to “The Wizard of Oz,” when the house fell on the wicked witch, and her legs curled up under her is the way I describe RLS. Just sort of creepy feeling. The solution I’ve used for years is to stretch out those back-of-the leg muscles just before bed. In a safe place with something to hold on to if needed,
1. Arms up over your head and reach 4-5 times, lower arms and place hands on hips.
2. Twist that waist 4-5 times (more is OK). Arms and hands to the sides.
3. Now, with arms and hands straight in front of you, slowly bend downward from the waist
without bending your knees. Feel the stretch in the back of your legs–keep bending and
stretching–if you can touch the floor with finger tips…good job…if you touch the floor flat-handed…awesome job. If you can’t quite do that yet, see how well you do after a week.

Oh, if you forget to stretch before bed and your RLS begins, just roll out of bed, and standing
right there try only the bending from your waist part, and stretch those back leg muscles.
Hope some of you find this helpful.

I have been plagued by RLS for over 50 years. I inherited it from my mother but did not understand what she was suffering with until after her passing. My RLS has become much worse in recent years so I have tried to narrow it down to what causes it to flare up: these include Benadryl and any similar medication, purified bottled water with added “minerals” for flavor, flavored chips/snacks and various foods with chemical flavor enhancement. Rebound from Requip made it worse than it was before taking it. I have to take whatever I can to get to sleep so I miss out on a lot of sleep as there is not much that helps. I can get relief from RLS with opioids but can no longer get a prescription. Very frustrated.

I have really appreciated wearing compression sleeves on my calves at night to ease my RLS symptoms. It feels great, but I hear from PT people that it’s not a good idea to wear the compression at night; not helpful for circulation.

I had Restless Legs many years ago. It was just awful for me and my husband whom I kicked in bed on a regular basis. We were both losing sleep nightly. I happened to read a letter in a health magazine from a lady who claimed that 400mg of Vit. E helped her. I was very skeptical, but I was willing to try anything. I did try it, and after about 4 weeks things had improved amazingly. I kept taking the Vit. E for about 15 years. I had no signs of the condition for so many years I stopped taking it to see if it would return. It didn’t. Now 20 years + the condition has not returned. If it did I would certainly try Vit. E again.

I have found that rubbing my legs with a lotion that contains menthol helps; also rubbing my legs with a topical cream that contains Emu oil.

I have had RLS all of my adult life. Until I was into my 60s, it occurred only occasionally and so it was not a problem. However, when I started taking a generic thyroid medication, the RLS occurred nightly and it became a real problem. Changing from the generic thyroid medication to the non-generic did not help. I discussed the problem with an internist I started seeing. She suggested taking a cinnamon capsule a couple times a day. I take one 500 mg capsule of Ceylon cinnamon morning, noon and night. Three times a day seemed to work better than a couple times a day. Since starting this cinnamon regimen, I would describe my RLS condition to have been 90 to 95 percent improved. I am very happy with this level of improvement.

My husband has RLS. After doing some reading online we came up with a combination of Magnesium Glycinate, Calcium and B12 taken an hour before bed. It works well for nighttime RLS. He takes 400-500 mg. of the Magnesium and Calcium and 1000 mg. of the B12. He also takes a Turmeric at night. He doesn’t have daytime symptoms, but I would imagine you could try this in the AM and the PM.

I take hawthorne berry, and it works great!

I have had restless legs for most of my life. Started taking magnesium. Helps tremendously, but if too much is taken it can cause diarrhea.

What has helped my RLS is powdered Magnesium (CALM) dissolved in a small amount of water (almost instant relief) and Garden of Life raw iron from fruits and vegetables. Both together provide relief. It took years to discover what helps me.

I take Magnesium Bisglycinate Chelate – 655 mg, 3 times a day.
I take it with food, and that seems to be the answer for me.

I had RLS frequently until I started drinking around six ounces of low-fat milk (seems like 1/2% to 1%) shortly before bed. Have done this for many months and am never bothered. Hope it continues to work!

I have had restless legs for 20+ years. It is not as bad as it use to be. I have tried lots of remedies, medications, soap under the sheets, teas, oils, etc! Nothing worked. I discovered my remedy by accident.

One night I was having another spell of RLS. I was lying in bed, and by chance I stuck my leg straight up in the air and massaged the backside of my leg! I firmly massaged about a foot or more on both sides of of the bend of my knee! This helped tremendously! I had immediate relief and was able to go back to sleep! I know this sounds wacky- but whatever it takes!

I only have occasional problems with RLS, thankfully. Something I find helpful when I am having trouble is to place a heating pad, set on the lowest setting, on my legs. I usually will put a sheet or two between the pad and my legs so it isn’t too hot. I don’t know if this is psychosomatic or physiological, but I guess that doesn’t really matter! I’ll just accept the help!!

Calcium/magnesium is also good for my restless leg syndrome.

I rarely have RLS, and it only comes occasionally when I am trying to go to sleep. I think mine is some kind of food or additive allergy. I first noticed it when I ate hush puppies at a particular seafood restaurant.

When I get it I take an aspirin and keep my legs very warm (leg warmers in addition to pajama bottoms), and that helps me get to sleep.

I use topical magnesium oil for muscle spasms, pain and stiffness. I order it online. In the Reviews section I’ve read that some people have had very good luck using this for restless leg syndrome.

I have had restless legs since I was a teenager, so about 60 years. My husband told me at one point that he thought my sweet tooth had something to do with it, and I should try giving up sugar. I didn’t do that for the longest time, having a real sweet tooth, but finally I tried it, and it made an enormous difference.

To start, try not eating sugar from after lunch, or after about 2 pm. I was surprised at how effective that was, but people are different. I got to the point where I was willing to do anything, except take medication for it. Afterwards, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and put on Pramipexole anyway, which meant that even when I have sugar in the evening I don’t get restless legs, although I would much rather not be taking any medication at all. Give the giving up of sugar a try.

I was able to cure my restless leg symptoms by stretching the piraformis muscles in my butt.
I have been a jogger for many years, and many of the running magazines used to recommend hamstring stretches to relieve nighttime restlessness. It always seemed to help but I found I had to do them every night. You can get some great stretches for the piraformis on the internet, and they worked for my wife and me. I have been able to avoid drugs for this for 50 years of jogging!

Keeping my feet and calves warm seems to really help limit leg cramps for me. I wear socks to bed, and sometimes use a small heating pad under my legs at night.

I rub my legs with a popular topical muscle pain relief cream before bedtime, and it seems to work.

I’ve had RLS my entire life, and the only home therapy that has ever worked for me is to walk on a cold floor with bare feet for a bit. Standing helps but the cold floor addition makes a difference.

On planes is the worst. I have had entirely miserable 6 hour flights! I now always wear loose light pants and kick off my shoes when flying now. And if needed, ibuprofen helps or in worst cases, I do take a Clonopin. Getting up and walking around helps but not always.

Soap does not work for me. Alcohol makes it worse. Keeping my weight down, and regular exercise also seem to help.

I keep looking for new and better solutions!

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