Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Articles » NINDS Restless Legs Syndrome Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Restless Legs Syndrome Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Restless Legs Syndrome Information Page: NINDS

Main condition: Restless Legs Syndrome

Conditions: Restless Legs Syndrome

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome is a sensori-motor (movement) disorder characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, which are worse during periods of inactivity or rest or while sitting or lying down. There is often a positive family history of the disorder. Individuals affected with the disorder describe the sensations as pulling, drawing, crawling, wormy, boring, tingling, pins and needles, prickly, and sometimes painful sensations that are usually accompanied by an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Sudden muscle jerks may also occur. Movement provides temporary relief from the discomfort. In rare cases, the arms may also be affected. Symptoms may interfere with sleep onset (sleep onset insomnia). Research suggests that restless legs syndrome is related to periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), another more common motor disorder which causes interrupted sleep. The symptoms often exhibit circadian rhythmicity in their peak occurrence during awakening hours.

Is there any treatment?
Treatment for restless legs syndrome is symptomatic. Massage and application of cold compresses may provide temporary relief. Medications such as temazepam, levodopa/carbidopa, bromocriptine, pergolide mesylate, oxycodone, propoxyphene, and codeine are effective in relieving the symptoms. However, many of these medications have side effects. Current research suggests correction of iron deficiency may improve symptoms for some patients.

What is the prognosis?
Restless legs syndrome is a life-long condition for which there is no cure. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age, and their most disabling feature is the sleep onset insomnia they cause, which can be severe.

What research is being done?
The NINDS supports an extensive program of basic and clinical research aimed at discovering the mechanisms responsible for many motor disorders such as restless legs syndrome, especially those associated with sleep changes. The goal of this research is to discover ways to prevent, diagnose, treat, and, ultimately, find cures for motor disorders including restless legs syndrome.


National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
(100 Route 37)
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
Tel: 203-746-6518 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-746-6481

National Sleep Foundation
1522 K Street NW
Suite 500
Washington, DC 20005
Tel: 202-347-3471 (no public calls please)
Fax: 202-347-3472

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation
819 Second Street, SW
Rochester, MN 55902-2985
Tel: 507-287-6465
Fax: 507-287-6312

Related NINDS Publications and Information

  • Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep
    Fact sheet on normal sleep and sleep disorders developed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
  • Restless Legs Fact Sheet
    Restless legs syndrome fact sheet developed by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

    This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
    The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    National Institutes of Health
    Bethesda, MD 20892


    By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

    Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise