7 Natural Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment Options

Plagued by the urge to move your legs? Constantly bothered by discomfort and pain in your legs? Instead of looking to pharmaceuticals to find relief, try these natural restless leg syndrome treatment options.

restless leg syndrome treatment

Researchers from Lake Erie Research Institute found that an adjustable foot wrap was 1.4 times more effective than the standard pharmaceutical treatment for restless leg syndrome.

© Błażej Łyjak | Dreamstime.com

We all get antsy from time to time and feel the need to get up and move around. But for people who suffer from restless leg syndrome, these feelings aren’t just an occasional bother. The urge to move and the uncomfortable, even painful, sensations in the legs and other parts of the body can be debilitating. (They also may be related to sleep myoclonus, which causes twitching while sleeping.) Fortunately, there are numerous restless leg syndrome treatment options that are all natural and effective.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, presents such symptoms as an urge to move along with uncomfortable sensations in the legs. People often have a hard time finding the right words to describe these feelings, but often describe them as painful.[1]

Symptoms tend to begin or worsen during times when a person is resting or inactive; moving around may alleviate symptoms. As the condition progresses, however, movement may no longer help, and the discomfort may become present in other parts of the body (such as the arms).

These symptoms make sleeping as well as regular daily activities difficult.[1] Studies show that people with RLS may be up to three times more likely to report depression, anxiety, and stress than the general population.[2]

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RLS Cause? A Mystery…

While the exact cause of RLS can be a mystery, we now know that a variety of factors can affect the onset and development of the condition.

Iron deficiency, for example, plays a major role: 25 percent to 30 percent of people with conditions that make them iron deficient (including pregnancy) may develop RLS. A dysfunction in the activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine is also thought to be a major contributor to RLS.[1]

Conventional Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

Drug treatments for RLS include opioids, sedatives, anticonvulsants, benzodiazepines, and dopaminergic agents. Dopaminergic drugs, which increase the activity of dopamine, are most commonly used. However, these drugs have many side effects including nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, dizziness, insomnia, and drowsiness. What’s more troubling is that they can make symptoms worse in many cases (a phenomenon called augmentation).[3,4]

Dopaminergic drugs can also inhibit lactation and may have other risks during pregnancy, so they may not be appropriate for the many pregnant women who develop RLS.

Natural, Effective Strategies to Reduce Symptoms

To avoid the use of these risky drugs, try these natural strategies.

  1. Check your iron levels. Iron deficiency is one of the major contributors to RLS. Up to 75 percent of people with RLS can have depleted iron stores.[1] Work with your doctor to determine your iron levels and appropriate measures to get you back in the normal range.
  2. Boost dopamine. Low dopamine function is known to be a problem for those with RLS.[1] Instead of conventional drug treatments, try these natural dopamine boosters that can help you to relieve RLS symptoms as well as improve mood, focus, and more. Strategies include addressing a magnesium deficiency, decreasing stress, and supplementing with tyrosine.
  3. Exercise. Researchers believe exercise can help tremendously.[6] In one study, hemodialysis patients with RLS were assigned to take dopaminergic drugs or to undergo aerobic exercise training. The results showed that exercise improved symptom severity just as well as the drug treatment option.[7] (See our post “The Benefits of Walking: Reduce Your Risk of Dementia, Cancer, Diabetes, and More“)
  4. Try yoga. Small studies have found that regular yoga practices can benefit people with RLS. Yoga can reduce symptom severity as well as improve sleep, enhance mood, reduce stress and anxiety, and decrease blood pressure in RLS patients.[3,8] If you haven’t give it a try, see our post “Yoga for Beginners: How It Benefits Your Body, Mind, and Spirit.”
  5. Check your medications. RLS symptoms may be a side effect of common medications. Read your labels and if you suspect your medications are playing a part, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
  6. Avoid triggers. Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine can all make your symptoms worse.[1]
  7. Take care of yourself at home. Techniques like taking hot baths, stretching regularly, massaging the painful areas, using compression devices on your legs, and maintaining a regular sleep schedule can all help. If your symptoms get worse in the evenings when you tend to be more inactive, try staying more alert with games or other activities such as crossword puzzles.[1,5]

Share Your Experience

Do you have restless leg syndrome (RLS)? How do you find relief? Do any of the strategies for restless leg syndrome treatment listed above work for you? Share your experience in the Comments section below.

For related reading, visit these posts:


[1] Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2006 Sep 1;63(17):1599-612.
[2] BMC Res Notes. 2014 Dec 15;7:911.
[3] Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:294058.
[4] Sleep Med. 2013 Jul;14(7):675-84.
[5] Sleep Med Rev. 2014 Nov 4. pii: S1087-0792(14)00119-1.
[6] Mov Disord. 2008 Dec 15;23(16):2267-302.
[7] BMC Nephrol. 2013 Sep 11;14:194.
[8] J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jun;19(6):527-35.


Originally published in 2015, this post is regularly updated.

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Comments
  • Susan C.

    I’m really excited to check my magnesium levels and see if that helps. Thanks!

  • geraldine b.

    I have left week ness but their is no pain the leg

  • Tina J.

    My mom really had a hard time with RLS and leg cramps at light. An Amish neighbor lady told her to drink pickle juice when she was having a tuff time with them. Worked like a charm for her!

  • Madeline J.

    I’m 83 and have had RLS most of my life. After fracturing my upper left humerus in 1993, it went nightly that first night, and for a year my doctor worked with me, trying various ideas, to get me back to an occasional basis. But the last few years it’s been nightly again, up 2-6 times a night for about an hour each before it settles down again. I’ve tried most of the options above, without relief, or with brief relief but then augmentation or other unwanted side effects. Soaking in our Jacuzzi sometimes helps, not always. A sleep doctor talked me into Mirapex about 3 years ago, and besides augmentation, I’m quite sure it was the cause of my first a-fib. Exercise is important, yet over-exercise makes RLS worse. Some people find a CPAP machine helps, but two overnight hospital sleep studies have both said I don’t have apnea. Requip caused augmentation 4 years ago, but now I’m trying it again by just taking a half-pill on occasional nights when I especially need the sleep, but not consecutive nights for fear of augmentation. I feel as if maybe some wrap that would automatically massage my legs through the night might help, but anything I’ve seen online like that is expensive enough that I hesitate to buy it without first trying it.

  • RLS triggers for me have been sugar & caffeine (colas, chocolate, etc) near bedtime. My Dr said common treatment is Lyrica or Gabapentine, which I’m already taking & didn’t help at all. Process of elimination helped me resolve this issue. Interesting how RLS affects everyone so differently.

  • Marie A.

    A lady at my health food store suggested I take Hawthorne pills for restless legs and it has helped tremendously.

  • Jeannie R.

    Hyland’s “Restful Legs”, a homeopathic remedy, has been a Godsend for me. It states on the bottle that it doesn’t treat RLS but it has worked for me for several years. Many medications I have had to take cause my RLS to get really bad. Requip, an RX worked for a couple weeks and then made it worse. But just a tablet or two of the hyland’s and within 25 minutes or so I get consistent relief. I was so amazed that something I can buy at Walmart worked for this horribly debilitating problem! I always keep a bottle in my nightstand. It’s been a lifesaver.

  • Marguerite M.

    Magnesium oil spray works like a charm for me. Really helps ease anxiety too.

  • Karen S.

    I have had restless leg for years….back in the day my pediatrician told my Mom it was growing pains…. A health store recommend taking potassium, 2-99mg and Magnesium oxide 500mg when I feel the symptoms (any time) It works! In about 10-20 minutes restless leg is gone!!! Give it a try… Magnesium oxide also helps if you are constipated…. I hope this helps

  • I take Pramipexole 0.088mg x4 a night. It’s a dopamine agonist and it generally works. It does cause augmentation in my arms but this goes if I take them spaced over 3 hours before bed. They cause drowsiness but that’s ok. Don’t drive at night.

  • I suffer from RLS too. I was prescribed Requip and it works for a little while then you have to increase the dosage. It keeps getting worse and worse so I need to find something else, hopefully natural, that works. What is augmentation in reference to RLS?

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