Restless Leg Syndrome

How Does Acupuncture Treat Restless Legs?

shutterstock_291705785-sizedLooking for an alternative to medications for Restless Leg Syndrome? Look no further. Acupuncture is a natural treatment alternative for symptoms of twitching, uncomfortable legs. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is becoming easier to diagnose and treat as information regarding its symptoms becomes more available. Acupuncture is an especially effective, natural alternative to medications for Restless Leg Syndrome.

Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition characterized by a feeling in your legs of extreme discomfort. It makes your legs want to move, especially at night when you are sitting or lying down.

Movement temporarily relieves the discomfort but the relief does not last. Restless legs syndrome can begin at any age and generally worsens as you age. Restless legs syndrome can disrupt sleep – leading to daytime drowsiness. RLS can make traveling difficult since it worsens with inactivity and prolonged sitting.

Acupuncturists consider the uncomfortable feelings in your legs as ‘qi stagnation’. Qi is the energy that flows through the acupuncture meridians in your legs and body. When circulation decreases in your legs, the energy called ‘qi’ also decreases resulting in abnormal sensations or even abnormal movements. Any abnormal movement of the body is considered a ‘wind’ condition in Chinese medicine.  Acupuncture achieves great results with conditions associated with abnormal sensations and movement – including those associated with Restless Leg Syndrome. (Please see our Pain Treatment page for further information on meridians and qi.)

How Many Acupuncture Treatments Will I Need?

Most of my patients with Restless Leg Syndrome have had the condition for many years. Usually people seek treatment once their medications are no longer working like they used to. Acupuncture treatments for Restless Leg are not a quick fix. Most patients see results in 10 -15 visits but often even sooner. The sooner you seek treatment, the less the number of visits required.

Does it Work?

I have a very high success rate with Restless Leg Syndrome. Most patients do not require further visits once they’ve completed a round of treatment. Some patients choose to receive maintenance treatments on a monthly to bi-monthly basis. They say it helps them stay relaxed, encourages sound sleep, and helps them get deeper rest – symptom free!

Common Restless Leg Symptoms

People typically describe restless leg symptoms as abnormal, unpleasant sensations in their calves, thighs or feet.

  • Crawling Sensations
  • Pulling or Tugging
  • Throbbing or Painful Itching or burning

Restless legs are different than night time cramping such as occur with “charlie horse” type leg cramps.  People usually don’t describe the condition as a muscle cramp or numbness. They do, however, consistently describe the desire to move their legs. It’s common for symptoms to come and go – sometimes disappearing for various time periods.

PLMD or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder is another leg movement condition that may occur alone or alongside RLS.  PLMD is characterized by nighttime leg twitching. PLMD causes involuntary flexing and extending of the legs at night while sleeping. You may not be aware that your legs are moving throughout the night. Involuntary kicking movements may occur while awake, especially in cases of severe RLS. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 RLS sufferers also exhibit PLMD symptoms.

4 Criteria for Diagnosing Restless Leg Syndrome

To be diagnosed with RLS, you must meet four criteria established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:

  1. A strong, often irresistible urge to move your legs, accompanied by uncomfortable sensations of crawling, cramping, tingling, pulling.
  2. Symptoms worsen when you’re resting, such as sitting or lying down.
  3. Symptoms are somewhat relieved by activity, such as walking or stretching, for as long as you keep moving.
  4. Symptoms are worse at night.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

In many cases, no known cause for restless legs syndrome exists. Researchers suspect the condition may be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine – a chemical messenger that controls muscle movement.  RLS may be hereditary. 50% of those with RLS have family members who also have RLS. Research has shown genetic causes for RLS.

RLS can develop at any age, even during childhood. Many adults who have RLS can recall being told as a child that they had growing pains or can remember parents rubbing their legs to help them fall asleep. The disorder is more common with increasing age.

Related conditions include iron deficiency, kidney problems, and peripheral neuropathy. See a doctor for severe symptoms of RLS. If you have RLS without any associated condition, treatment focuses on lifestyle changes. If those aren’t effective, medications.

Self Care for RLS

  • Cut back on or eliminate caffeine, alcohol and tobacco to help increase circulation to the legs.
  • Massage your legs while soaking in a warm bath.
  • Get to sleep on time – fatigue worsens symptoms.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Stretch regularly.
  • Relax more!

Medications for RLS

Several prescription medications – most of which were developed to treat other diseases – are being used to reduce the symptoms of restless legs.

  • Parkinson’s Medications – Requip, Mirapex, Neupro, Sinemet
  • Epilepsy Medications – Neurontin, Horizant
  • Opioids – codeine, oxycodone, Percocet, Vicodin
  • Benzodiazapenes – to help with sleep – Lunesta, Klonopin, Sonata, Ambien

**Anti-depressants may worsen RLS symptoms.

One thing to remember with drugs to treat RLS is that sometimes a medication that has worked for you for a while becomes ineffective. Or you notice your symptoms returning earlier in the day. For example, if you’ve been taking your medication at 8 p.m., your symptoms of RLS may start at 6 p.m. This is called augmentation. Your doctor may substitute another medication to combat the problem.

Acupuncture – Restless Leg Treatment Alternative!

RLS is generally a lifelong condition. But it CAN be treated with acupuncture. Acupuncture has helped many people with Restless Legs Syndrome sleep and relax symptom free. Call today for an appointment and see how acupuncture can help YOU with your Restless Leg symptoms.

Restless Leg Syndrome Research Studies

Acupuncture Cured Restless Leg Syndrome

In 2002 Bob Flaws reported the results of a study treating restless leg syndrome with acupuncture. “Twelve of the 18 cases in this study were judged cured. This meant that bilateral pain and strange, uncomfortable sensations disappeared. Another six cases were judged to have gotten a marked effect, meaning that their lower limb pain or uncomfortable sensations, were decreased. Therefore, the total amelioration rate was 100% using this protocol.

Patient Reviews for Restless Leg Syndrome

“I have been suffering with RLS for many years now. The symptoms had gotten rather severe and every night was a struggle. Medication allowed me to sleep but had undesired side effects. A friend told me about Margaret and raved about her abilities. Having tried acupuncture (as well as hypnosis, exercises, counseling, etc.) previously with little success, I was skeptical.. Margaret has proven to be caring and compassionate and her methods have significantly improved my symptoms. Most nights now have mild to no symptoms and the anxiety I was experiencing each night has begun to subside. I would highly recommend Margaret to anyone who is suffering from RLS.”

Steve S. – West Chester, PARestless legs and anxiety relief!