Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Non-drug treatment of restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an uncomfortable sensation in the legs that occurs at rest, more often in the evening, and is relieved temporarily with movement. We don't know what causes RLS, but researchers think it may have something to do with dopamine dysregulation. RLS is often treated with prescription medications. However, sometimes non-medicine treatments can help. This article reviews some of the evidence supporting those non-drug treatments.

Regular exercise has been shown to relieve RLS. Proposed mechanism is an increase in circulation, release of endorphins, and increase in dopamine. More recently, pneumatic compression stockings have shown to be helpful. These are air filled wraps worn around the legs - they repetitively fill and empty the air resulting in a massaging action and can improve circulation. If you don't have a pair of pneumatic compression stockings laying around, regular massage has been shown to be helpful, perhaps by increasing circulation, a counter stimulation action, or generation dopamine. Near-infrared light has been shown to be helpful, possibly by increasing circulation. Acupuncture has not been shown to be effective for RLS when compared to no treatment. Certain vitamins and minerals have been shown to be helpful - vitamin E, vitamin B12, multivitamins with vitamin C, glucosamine, zinc, folic acid, vitamin D, and magnesium made the list.

RLS has been associated with low iron, and sometimes I use iron therapy to help with the symptoms. This often takes months of daily iron intake to increase the levels. I don't recommend people taking iron though unless the level is low, as too much iron is not healthy.

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