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Did the Moderna Vaccine Relieve Restless Legs?

Case reports are not scientific, but they may lead to interesting discoveries. Some readers report a COVID shot helped relieve restless legs.

People who suffer restless legs syndrome (RLS) are often at their wits end. That’s because the condition has them pacing the floor and constantly moving their legs in bed. One reader was amazed to discover that he felt better after getting the Moderna shot against COVID-19. Could a vaccine relieve restless legs or was this a placebo effect?

An Accidental Discovery:

Q. I have restless legs syndrome, which makes it hard for me to sit through something like a concert or a movie and often makes sleeping difficult. However, since getting the Moderna COVID vaccination I have not had any sign of restless legs. Has anyone else reported this? I have no other explanation.

A. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a somewhat mysterious neurological condition that manifests as uncomfortable sensations in legs. The most typical description we hear about is a “creepy-crawly” feeling. This often forces the individual to move his or her legs, which makes sitting or sleeping challenging.

COVID shots can affect the nervous system, though this is quite rare. For example, there were a couple of cases of Bell’s palsy associated with the coronavirus vaccines. You can read about them and this unusual neurological condition at this link.

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Bell’s Palsy and COVID-19 vaccination:

A case is reported in the journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health, online, Feb. 10; publication date: May, 2021.

“The patient is a 57-year-old female with past medical history of 3 episodes of Bell’s Palsy. She responded to prednisone treatment and returned to her baseline after each occurrence. Less than 36  h following the second dose of the vaccine, the patient developed a left Bell’s Palsy. The facial droop progressed in severity over the next 72  h.”

The authors are quick to note that:

“In our patient, although Bell’s Palsy recurrence took place within 36  h after the second dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination, proof of association as well as exact pathophysiology await further investigation. Whether history of Bell’s Palsy predisposes a person to a higher chance of recurrence after COVID-19 vaccination is also to be determined.”

Could a Vaccination Relieve Restless Legs?

The idea that the COVID vaccine might trigger a nerve reaction could conceivably explain the benefit against RLS. We wondered whether the effect would last. We asked this visitor to our website whether the Moderna vaccine continued to relieve his restless legs over time.

He replied:

“My vaccination was two weeks ago yesterday and it appears that the positive effect it had on my restless legs has mostly now disappeared. I still sleep better than before but I have trouble sitting for very long.”

But wait…there’s more! Here is the latest update from John:

“I responded a while ago that my restless leg symptoms seemed to be returning. However, it does appear that they are far less frequent and I am still sleeping much better than prior to the Moderna vaccination. It is now two days short of four weeks since the vaccination.”

Another Person Reports the Moderna Vaccine Helped Relieve Restless Legs:

Q. I have Parkinson’s disease (PD), which has led to 14 years suffering with restless leg syndrome (RLS). This keeps me awake at night. I also deal with pain and spasms as soon as I rest.

I take ropinarole for the PD. It is also supposed to help with the RLS, but I haven’t noticed much effect.

The only relief I have had was after my Moderna COVID vaccination. I called it a miracle because the relief was incredible. Sadly, it didn’t last more than a month or so.

I can’t wait to have my booster this year. I’ve got my fingers crossed it will be Moderna again. Have you heard of others reacting this way?

A. We heard earlier from a reader who had been suffering from RLS for years. After getting the Moderna vaccine, his symptoms disappeared. They eventually came back, but at a much lower level.

Since then we have heard from a number of other readers who have reported reduced RLS symptoms after vaccination. On the other hand, Japanese doctors report one case of RLS developing in an 87-year-old woman after getting the Pfizer vaccine (Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience, May, 2022).  So far, we have no scientific explanation for this effect.

Deborah read our initial case in her local newspaper. She wrote that the Moderna vaccine did help relieve restless legs:

“I have to write to you as I had my first Moderna vaccine today…12 hours ago to be exact. I have been taking the maximum dosage of pramipexole plus gabapentin for a number of years.

“Normally I have an alarm that goes off every evening at 7:30 to remind me to take my pills. If I don’t, I will be up all night unable to sleep from the continuous restlessness in my legs.

“Tonight my alarm failed to go off and when I realized I hadn’t taken my meds 15 minutes ago I panicked. Much to my surprise I have absolutely no symptoms, which for me is unheard of. Lying here in bed, I started to wonder if it had anything to do with today’s injection so I googled it to find the comment from someone else in your article published in the Seattle Times.

“I had to write to let you know there might be something to this correlation. It is definitely not a coincidence as I have suffered unbelievably for years with little or no relief other than the medications I mentioned.  It is worth following up on for sure as there isn’t much help for RLS.”

Will the COVID Vaccine Relieve Restless Legs?

Beats us. We have a total of two cases. That’s hardly enough to hang your hat on. But it is intriguing. Will the effect last? Who knows? But if anyone with RLS needs encouragement to get a COVID shot, perhaps this is it. If anyone else discovers that a COVID vaccination helps relieve restless legs, we would love to hear about it!

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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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