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Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder Treatment

Treatment does not cure the disorder but usually relieves symptoms.

Medical Treatment

Treatment involves medication that either reduces the movements or helps the person sleep through the movements.


Therapy does not cure PLMD but relieves symptoms. Note that many of the medications used to treat PLMD are the same as those used to treat restless legs syndrome.

  • Benzodiazepines: These drugs suppress muscle contractions. They are also sedatives and help you sleep through the movements. Clonazepam (Klonopin), in particular, has been shown to reduce the total number of periodic limb movements per hour. It is probably the most widely used drug to treat PLMD.
  • Dopaminergic agents: These drugs increased the levels of an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical) called dopamine, which is important in regulating muscle movements. These medications seem to improve the condition in some people but not in others. Widely used examples are a levodopa/carbidopa combination (Sinemet) and pergolide (Permax).
  • Anticonvulsant agents: These medications reduce muscle contractions in some people. The most widely used anticonvulsant in PLMD is gabapentin (Neurontin).
  • GABA agonists: These agents inhibit release of certain neurotransmitters that stimulate muscle contractions. The result is relaxation of contractions. The most widely used of these agents in PLMD is baclofen (Lioresal).

Next Steps - Follow-up

Your health care provider will ask you to return for one or more follow-up visits after trying his or her recommendations.

It is very important that your bed partner understand the nature of PLMD and that you are not intending to injure him or her with your movements.


See your health care provider regularly for proper care of any medical or mental problems.


Primary PLMD may be chronic (permanent). Many people with primary PLMD have improved nighttime sleep (remission) but experience one or more relapses over time.

Secondary PLMD may cease with treatment of the underlying cause.

For More Information

American Academy of Sleep Medicine
2510 North Frontage Avenue
Darien, IL 60561
(630) 737-9770

National Sleep Foundation
1010 N. Glebe Rd, Suite 310
Arlington, VA 22201
(703) 243-1697

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, Inc.
1530 Greenview Dr SW, Suite 210
Rochester, MN 55902-2985
(507) 287-6465

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