Devices to Treat Restless Legs Syndrome

There are 2 general theories for what causes the sensations of restless legs syndrome: lack of oxygen and blood to the muscles, or brain signals to the legs. The many devices sold to help with restless legs syndrome (RLS) target one of these 2 theories.1

Devices for RLS generally use compression, massage, or vibration to relieve unpleasant sensations in the legs. Most of this equipment is not approved or tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only 2 devices are currently approved by the FDA to treat RLS.1,2

The appeal of devices is that they do not have side effects the way some RLS drugs do. Some people find these devices work while others do not. Many have not been tested in a medical setting. Costs vary from under $10 to $2,500.1

FDA-approved devices for RLS

The Relaxis pad and Restiffic foot wraps are approved by the FDA to treat restless legs syndrome. Both require a prescription from your doctor.1,2

These devices may be a good option for people who cannot take medicine for RLS, such as women who are pregnant or people with end-stage kidney disease. Both devices show mixed results in studies. Some people find great relief while others find little.3

Relaxis pad

Relaxis is a pad placed under the legs that vibrates. The theory is that the vibrations stimulate the nerves, which interrupts the signals that cause the uncomfortable sensations in the legs.3

The pad comes in 3 sizes and can be plugged in or battery-operated. A controller lets you adjust how hard you want the pad to vibrate and for how long. Relaxis shuts itself off after 30 minutes. It should not be used in people with deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Cost is $850 to $1,100.1

Restiffic foot wraps

Restiffic foot wraps provide a type of acupressure to specific muscles in the feet. The device includes 2 foot wraps that go around the center of each foot. The wraps exert gentle pressure on the abductor hallucis and flexor hallucis brevis muscles on the bottom of the foot. Doctors believe the foot wraps work by signaling the brain to relax the leg muscles. In turn, this reduces the leg sensations of RLS. Cost is $199 to $349.2-4

Compression devices

Some people find that compression socks or compression devices that fit over the legs help relieve their RLS symptoms. The theory is that compression increases blood flow which increases oxygen levels in the tissue. In turn, this reduces the muscle contractions and nerve sensations of RLS. Costs begin under $10.1

Near-infrared light devices

Near-infrared light devices include 4 pads that are attached around the leg and a power cord. The idea is that the device emits light that stimulates blood flow in the muscles. This extra blood flow is thought to decrease RLS symptoms. Cost is $400 to $1,200.1

Other devices for RLS

Weighted blankets and hot or cold pads help some people. Online stores carry a wide variety of vibrating mats, leg massagers, leg pillows, and electrical nerve stimulators for RLS.5

Other treatments for RLS

Home remedies are popular and often provide at least some relief from the leg sensations. Diet and lifestyle changes also help many people with RLS. This includes getting regular exercise or reducing caffeine and alcohol.6

Several prescription drugs are available for moderate to severe RLS. Mild RLS is most often treated with non-drug therapies. Iron pills are sometimes prescribed to help with RLS symptoms.6

Before beginning treatment for RLS, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you are taking. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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Written by: Jessica Johns Pool | Last reviewed: July 2021