A friend noticed that when he rose early with his dogs, before 6 am, his neighbor’s light was invariably on. He inquired why and learned that the neighbor suffers from restless legs syndrome, which wakes him up in the wee hours. With his medication, he is able to sleep a bit earlier in the night, but by early morning he can’t stay in bed. Many people suffer with restless legs syndrome (RLS) and would like a good way to manage it. How can you calm your restless legs?
Are There Non-Drug Approaches to Calm Your Restless Legs?
Q. I suffered from restless legs syndrome for many years and took ropinirole (Requip) to treat it. The medication worked, but it caused me many worrying symptoms on a regular basis: dizziness, nausea, feeling like I was going to pass out, even vomiting at times. However, if I didn’t take the drug, I couldn’t sleep because my legs started acting up the minute I laid down in bed.
I accepted this until I happened to speak to someone who recommended that I see an acupuncturist. This woman cured me after only one visit. I’ll never forget that day, three years ago, when she needled my body and left the room. I felt strong movements of energy throughout my body and was so tired after that initial treatment that I went to bed as soon as I got home. I never took Requip again.
For quite a while, I saw the acupuncturist every month. Then over time I visited less frequently, though I still go back for a “tune up” several times a year. I am extremely grateful that I no longer need to take Requip.
Acupuncture for RLS:
A. Many people would prefer to use some method other than medication to control their restless legs syndrome. A review of non-pharmacological interventions found that acupuncture reduces RLS symptoms (Harrison et al, Disability and Rehabilitation, March 21, 2018). Your results are surprising in that you got such long-lasting relief from acupuncture to calm your restless legs. Other people may find that they need to continue with acupuncture to maintain freedom from RLS symptoms.
Other Non-Drug Approaches for RLS:
Scientists have focused most intensely on studying the drugs doctors prescribe for RLS. However, there are a few non-drug approaches that might be able to calm your restless legs. Restless legs syndrome, known in medicalese as Willis-Ekbom disease or simply Ekbom disease after the Swedish doctor who first described it, may respond to exercise, massage, infrared-light therapy or pneumatic compression devices that squeeze the legs to maintain good circulation (Mitchell, Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, May 6, 2011).
One randomized study found that massage, specifically massage with lavender oil, could ease RLS symptoms in people on hemodialysis (Hashemi et al, Nursing and Midwifery Studies, Dec. 2015). People with kidney disease often suffer from restless legs syndrome.
Placing the legs on a vibrating pad (Relaxis) for a 35-minute therapy cycle appears to be as effective as the drugs FDA has approved for treating RLS (Mitchell, Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, Dec. 3, 2015). Users have not reported adverse effects from using the pad, other than to the wallet–it can cost around $1,000.