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Diana Post, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.


Question:

Do you have any information on acupuncture being used for restless legs syndrome?


Answer:

Restless legs syndrome is a sensory movement disorder. People with it have spontaneous leg movements and unpleasant sensations like numbness and tingling that occur only at rest. Moving around makes the symptoms disappear. Some people have a lot of leg movement during sleep. A mild form of restless legs syndrome is pretty common, with estimates that 5% to 15% of the population have some symptoms.

Most of the time, doctors cannot find a reason why someone develops restless legs syndrome. However, it sometimes occurs with other disorders, such as iron deficiency, kidney disease, and diabetes.

People with restless legs syndrome sometimes seek treatment with acupuncture. Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine system.

The benefits of acupuncture in treating restless legs syndrome remain unclear. A recent review of acupuncture by the Cochrane Collaboration (part of the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008) looked at studies of acupuncture to treat restless legs syndrome. There were only two clinical trials that met minimum scientific standards. Both had some shortcomings. No significant improvement in restless legs syndrome symptoms was found. The conclusion was that there was insufficient evidence, and further study is needed to know whether acupuncture is a useful treatment for restless legs syndrome.


Last Annual Review Date: 2011-12-15 Copyright: Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Sleep Disorders section on Better Medicine


More Information on Restless Legs Syndrome

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A combination of moderate aerobic exercise and lower-body resistance training 3 times per week may reduce symptom severity by about 50%.