Devices to Treat Restless Legs Syndrome

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: August 2022 | Last updated: August 2022

There are 2 general theories for what causes the sensations of restless legs syndrome (RLS): lack of oxygen and blood to the muscles, or brain signals to the legs. The many devices sold to help with 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 US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Only 1 device – the Restiffic foot wrap – is currently approved by the FDA to treat RLS.1-3

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 devices have not been tested in a medical setting. And the studies that have been done have shown mixed results.1

These devices may be a good option for people who cannot take medicine for RLS, such as people who are pregnant or people with end-stage kidney disease. Some people find great relief while others find little.4

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.2

Researchers think the foot wraps tell the brain to relax your leg muscles, which can reduce the sensations of RLS.2

Restiffic is FDA-approved and requires a prescription from your doctor.2,5

Compression devices

Some people find that compression socks or compression devices that fit over the legs help relieve the symptoms of RLS. 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.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.1

Relaxis pad

Relaxis was FDA-approved but is no longer clinically available by prescription. It 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.1,3

Other devices for restless legs syndrome

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 restless legs syndrome

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 nondrug 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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