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Massage for Restless Leg Syndrome

Discover the benefits of massage for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) and the various techniques you and professionals can do to achieve relief.



You might think that Restless Legs Syndrome is limited to the legs, as the name suggests. However, it's reported that anywhere from 21-57% of severe Restless Legs Syndrome cases have Restless Arm Syndrome.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is the uncontrollable need to move your legs. This uncomfortable sensation is sometimes described as a throbbing, aching, itching, pulling, creeping, or crawling feeling commonly occurring at night. Restless Legs Syndrome also happens when you're lying down or sitting, and moving around temporarily relieves the symptoms.

Massage for Restless Leg Syndrome can reduce these symptoms. According to one study, massage therapy for RLS made a participant feel more rested. She was also able to get more work done during the day.

Here's a detailed breakdown of how massage therapy can help.

The Benefits of Massage for RLS

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Improve Circulation

Inadequate blood circulation can lead to Restless Legs Syndrome, causing cramping and discomfort. It also leads to the urge to move your legs. Massage therapy works to improve blood circulation, which helps your muscles to relax while enhancing blood drainage.

If you have any circulatory blockages, massage therapy can work to break these up. Increased blood flow can reduce the incidence of Restless Legs Syndrome and any future flare-ups.

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Promote Relaxation

Stress and anxiety can worsen Restless Legs Syndrome, but massage therapy reduces anxiety and tension. This can reduce your overall symptoms and their severity.

It's advisable to use 5% lavender oil during these massages. One study showed that lavender oil could improve the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. Living with the condition can also enhance a person's quality of life when living with the illness.

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Better Sleep

Massage therapy works to promote healthy sleep patterns. Improved sleep can lead to less cramping from Restless Legs Syndrome. It also leads to less fatigue during the daytime.

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Less Pain and Discomfort

If you're experiencing chronic pain or discomfort, especially from Restless Legs Syndrome, then massage therapy can help reduce those symptoms. Speak to a licensed massage therapist about the best treatment plan to help you reduce pain and tension and combat Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms.

A person getting their calf massaged

Increases Dopamines

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that sends messages between your nerve cells. Decreased dopamine levels may contribute to Restless Legs Syndrome, but massage therapy can help. Once diagnosed by a doctor, speak to them about ways massage therapy can help your dopamine levels.

Massage Techniques for RLS

You might be wondering how to massage your legs for Restless Legs Syndrome relief. Massage for Restless Legs Syndrome can reduce uncomfortable symptoms and help you get relief.

You can also ask your doctor to write you a prescription for leg pain massage therapy with a licensed physical therapist.

Some people are interested in pressure points; your massage therapist can discuss them with you. For example, Zusanli, the pressure point for restless legs, is located approximately 3 inches (or four finger widths) down from your leg's lateral side, below your knee. This pressure point is 2.5 lateral inches to your tibia, the larger of your two lower leg bones.

This may sound confusing, which is why you should work with a licensed massage therapist. Here are some common types of RLS massages available.

Trigger Point Therapy

Your body contains trigger points. When compressed, these trigger points are painful and can lead to referred pain, tenderness, autonomic phenomena, and motor dysfunction.

When you implement trigger point therapy, look for and release your body's trigger points. Before beginning any type of massage technique for Restless Leg Syndrome at home, always speak to your physician to ensure you're selecting appropriate massage techniques.

Your trigger points might be at the site of your pain, or they may not be. Your massage therapist will help you identify these spots to release them.

Myofascial Release Massage Therapy

Massage therapists focus on ways to release tension, massaging your fascia. This is the elastic and soft tissue that surrounds your muscles. When your fascia becomes knotty and tight, your massage therapist can work on these problem areas with massage and different stretches. When massaged, you should experience a reduction in muscle tension and pain.

You can perform a leg massage for restless legs at home using a foam roller or muscle stick. Slowly move your legs up and down your roller, looking for any tender spots.

Once you locate a tender spot, apply continuous pressure until you notice the tenderness fade. This can take between 30 and 90 seconds.

Sports Massage

Another type of Restless Legs Syndrome massage includes a sports massage. Athletes commonly use this type of massage before they compete in a sporting event. Your massage therapist will show you what muscles to target and muscle-tendon junctions.

These leg massage techniques for Restless Leg Syndrome at home include using your elbows, hands, and massage tools. Use long strokes and massage across your muscles, improving muscle recovery and increasing circulation. Move your massage strokes towards your heart and work slowly and diligently to release any stress and tension inside your muscles.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue massages involve strong pressure applied to your muscles. Your massage therapist kneads deep into your muscles, breaking up scar tissue and adhesions.

You can ask them to adjust the pressure level to your specific comfort. You may notice decreased Restless Legs Syndrome when applied in the evening.

You can perform a deep tissue massage yourself if you apply enough pressure on your own. Work your lower legs gently, applying deep pressure to your muscles.

Work upwards to your knees, paying attention to knots within your muscles. You can use a massage roller ball to achieve even, smooth strokes.

Remedial Massage

Remedial massage won't cure Restless Legs Syndrome, but it can help to reduce the symptoms you experience. It can also improve your quality of sleep.

This type of massage identifies your trigger points and looks for tight bands of muscle inside your legs. These trigger points might make your Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms worse. When you work with a remedial massage therapist, they can walk you through stretches and exercises to try at home.

How to Give Yourself a Massage

Not everyone has the time or resources to receive a professional massage. If this is the case, a massage at home is an excellent option.

Here's how to massage your legs yourself.

Stroking Technique

Place your fingers on your ankle with your palm facing toward your leg. Apply pressure with your fingers and move your hand to your hip.

Don't apply so much pressure that you experience pain. Do this ten times per leg.

Chopping Technique

Use your fist to lightly hit your leg muscles, working from your ankle to your hip. Repeat this motion, making your way all around your leg.

Squeezing and Kneading Technique

Wrap your fingers around your ankle. As you make your way up your leg, squeeze the muscles, making your way to your hip. Repeat this exercise and make your way around your entire leg.

Hip Bend

Sit on the floor or a chair and grasp your shin. Bend your knee, pull it to your chest, and hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax your leg and repeat ten times per leg.

Hamstring Stretch

Sit in a chair. Place one foot on the ground and the other in a chair parallel to the floor.

Keep a straight torso. Lean down at the hips so you feel the back of your leg stretch. Return to an upright position and repeat ten times per leg.

Foot Bend

Sit cross-legged — have your lower right leg rest on top of your left thigh. Put one hand on your right heel and the other on top of your right foot, relaxing your ankle and foot. Use both hands to move your foot around clockwise. Do this ten times before moving it counterclockwise ten times. Repeat with the other foot and do ten repetitions each.

To Bend

Sit down and place your lower right leg's side on your left thigh. Bend your toes upward using your hand and hold for 30 seconds.

Then bend your toes down and hold for another 30 seconds. Do this ten times before repeating it with the other leg.

Target Trigger Points

You can look for muscle knots using your fingers to locate them. Press firmly into these knots for three to five minutes numerous times throughout the day.

Use a Massage Aid

There are various massage aids you can use for restless Legs Syndrome. Consider the following:

Tennis Ball/Rollerball

Place a tennis ball below your knee, on your calf. Roll it lengthwise so the ball moves from below your knee to below your ankle. Repeat until the tension is released.

Roller Stick

Sit down and hold onto each handle of your roller stick. Press the stick into your calf (up top). Slowly roll the stick down your calf, returning up until tension begins to release.

Electronic Massager

Electronic massagers can release tension in your legs. Place your electric massager on your legs and run it up and down tight areas, including trigger points.

Massage Gun

As with electronic massagers, run a massage gun up and down your leg. Start at your thighs and work downwards.

Heating Pad

Heating pads can help to reduce Restless Legs Syndrome. They relax your muscles and work to decrease symptoms and often work in conjunction with hot and cold therapy.

How Often Should You Massage?

It's best to massage your legs at night, before bed. This can help manage your Restless Legs Syndrome. Aim to massage your legs between 30 and 60 minutes at least twice a week.

When to Avoid Massages

A massage is similar to exercising. It forces blood to enter your muscles, removing toxins and bringing them nutrients.

This means temporary inflammation in your muscles may occur throughout this healing, restorative process.

Along with this inflammation is discomfort, so if you're already experiencing any type of inflammation, you should check with your physician or massage therapist before performing a massage at home.

Complimentary Treatments

Although the cause of Restless Legs Syndrome remains a mystery, there are different theories. For example, it may be inherited.

RLS may also have a connection to leg nerve damage stemming from diabetes. It may also be connected to iron deficiency, kidney issues, pregnancy, certain medications, alcoholism, and sleep disorders. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, 1 in 10 people may experience Restless Legs Syndrome in the U.S.

Here are some other treatments that might help with the discomfort and symptoms and aid in your journey with massage therapy.

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If your doctor diagnosed you with Restless Legs Syndrome, be sure to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially dark, leafy greens. Incorporate lean meats into your diet, along with other iron-rich foods.

Iron and vitamin D3 both play a role in reducing the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. Vitamin D3 and iron can improve the production of red blood cells and other bodily functions.

Potassium is another excellent nutrient that can help combat Restless Legs Syndrome. Potassium helps your nerves to function correctly, along with your muscles.

You can increase your potassium levels by eating fruits such as bananas. You can also eat more leafy green vegetables.

Before taking a potassium supplement, always speak to your doctor to ensure you aren't taking too much. When consuming salt substitutes, monitor the potassium levels so you don't consume too much.

Other Dietary Considerations

F‌olate (B9) and magnesium added to your diet may also improve Restless Legs Syndrome.

Alcohol and caffeine can worsen symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome, so it's best to remove them from your diet, especially at night and before bed.

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The best exercise for Restless Legs Syndrome includes 30-60 minutes daily, but not within a few hours of when you go to bed. Steer clear of exercises that strain your joints, which can worsen your Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms.

Even though moderate exercise can help you manage your symptoms, most experts agree that strenuous exercise within a few hours of bedtime is a bad idea. Aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise daily, and avoid exercise where your joints ache, as it may worsen your Restless Legs Syndrome.

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Meditation can teach you to relax; mindfulness and other relaxation techniques can reduce Restless Legs Syndrome. There are videos on the Internet that will walk you through guided meditation.

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Certain acupuncture clinics focus on pain management. You can schedule appointments twice a week and see if it decreases the incidence of your Restless Legs Syndrome. You may find that acupuncture decreases inflammation in your muscles and works to lessen the discomfort you're experiencing.

A woman stretching on a yoga mat


Stretching can help to reduce the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. It may also help you sleep better, reduce stress, and lower your blood pressure.

You can begin by bending your right knee slightly and stepping back with your left leg roughly a foot or two. Position that foot's heel and foot flat against the floor.

Hold this pose for 20 to 30 seconds before switching legs. You can move your foot back farther for an even deeper stretch, but be careful not to overdo it.

Ease RLS Symptoms with a Massage

Massage for Restless Legs Syndrome can decrease the uncomfortable sensations accompanying this condition. Work with a licensed massage therapist to create a schedule that works best for you, and look for tips and tricks to try at home. You can also combine massage therapy with diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, and stretching.

If you need assistance with pain management, Carex can help. We offer hot and cold therapy, pain relief gel, and so much more.

Shop by condition to see how we can best help you achieve the best results possible, or contact us today for more assistance. A member of our dedicated staff is committed to helping you.

About the Author

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Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

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Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.