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Restless Legs Syndrome: Alternative Treatments

If you have restless legs syndrome, or RLS, you know that tugging or pulling feeling in your legs. You might feel an overpowering urge to move them, especially at night. This can make it really hard to sleep.

There is no cure for RLS, but there are some non-drug steps you can try to get relief from your symptoms. Here are a few. 

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The specific causes of restless legs syndrome (RLS) are not known. Disease in the blood vessels of the legs or in the nerves in the legs that control leg movement and sensation was once thought to cause RLS, but both of these suggestions have been rejected. RLS may be related to abnormalities in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that help regulate muscle movements, or to abnormalities in the part of the central nervous system that controls automatic movements. Research is still being done in these...

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Good sleep routine. Throwing off your sleep pattern can make your RLS symptoms worse. Try going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning. To get deep sleep, it may help to go to bed a little later and get up later. Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and comfortable.  Keep the TV and computer out of the bedroom.

Take iron. Because low levels of iron might be linked to RLS, your doctor will likely suggest taking iron supplements.

Other supplements. There's not a lot of research to back it up, but some people get relief from RLS symptoms by taking folic acid, magnesium, or vitamin B12.

Change your temperature. Try a cool shower or a soak in a warm bath before bedtime. Experiment with either a heating pad or an ice pack on your legs. Sometimes just a change in temperature helps.

Massage. Rubbing your muscles, especially your calves, may help ease your pain and symptoms. Try massage right before bed to see if it helps you get a more restful night's sleep.

Exercise. Regular, mild exercise during the day may help. Take a short walk or try some simple stretching exercises before bed. Be careful you don't exercise too hard, even if it's early in the day. Too much or too vigorous exercise can make your RLS symptoms worse.

Stress relief. Stress can cause your RLS to flare and make symptoms worse. Find ways that help you relax and calm your anxiety. You might want to try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, or tai chi.

Electrical stimulation. Sometimes stimulating your feet and toes with vibrations or electrical impulses can give relief from RLS symptoms. Some people have success when they do this for a few minutes before they go to sleep. Ask your doctor for more information.

Acupuncture. There's no hard proof that acupuncture helps with symptoms, yet many people with RLS give it a try to relieve symptoms.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on June 04, 2014

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