Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre

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Restless Leg Syndrome - A Chinese Medicine Perspective

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

According to the Mayo Clinic [1], Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. It typically happens in the evening or nighttime hours when sitting or lying down. Moving eases the unpleasant feeling temporarily.

Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, can begin at any age but generally worsens with age. It can disrupt sleep, which in turn interferes with daily activities.

The chief symptom is an urge to move the legs. Common accompanying characteristics of RLS include [1]:

  • Sensations that begin after rest. The sensation typically begins after lying down or sitting for an extended time.
  • Relief with movement. The sensation of RLS lessens with movement, such as stretching, jiggling the legs, pacing or walking.
  • Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms occur mainly at night.
  • Nighttime leg twitching. RLS may be associated with another, more common condition called periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes legs to twitch and kick, possibly throughout the night, while you sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Typically symptoms of RLS are describe as abnormal, unpleasant sensations in their legs or feet. They usually happen on both sides of the body, but infrequently affect the arms.

The sensations, which generally occur within the limb rather than on the skin, are described as:

  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Pulling
  • Throbbing
  • Aching
  • Itching
  • Electric

Sometimes the sensations are difficult to explain. People with RLS usually don’t describe the condition as a muscle cramp or numbness. They do, however, consistently describe the desire to move their legs.

It’s common for symptoms to fluctuate in frequency and severity. Sometimes, symptoms disappear for periods of time, then return.

How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, RLS is closely related to organ energy imbalances, especially in the liver, heart, and kidneys. Treatment principles including balancing yin and yang and promoting qi and xue (blood) circulation, nourishing the spleen, dredging the Sanjiao channel, and regulating the du and ren channels.

Research has show acupuncture to be effective in treating restless leg syndrome [2,3,4]. Traditional acupuncture theory proposes the cause of RLS to be a deficiency of Yin and Xue (blood energy), which is responsible for body and brain relaxation. Particularly, the lack of liver Xue and Yin, which controls activity of legs at night, is the main cause of RLS [2,4].

At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre our highly qualified and experienced team of practitioners are happy to develop a personalised treatment programme with you. Simply call (02)4573 0784


  1. Mayo Clinic. Restless Leg Syndrome. URL: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/restless-legs-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20377168 – Last visited: 7th Aug. 2021

  2. Raissi, G. R., Forogh, B., Ahadi, T., Ghahramanpoori, S., Ghaboussi, P., & Sajadi, S. (2017). Evaluation of Acupuncture in the Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, 10(5), 346–350. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jams.2017.08.004

  3. Bega, D., & Malkani, R. (2016). Alternative treatment of restless legs syndrome: an overview of the evidence for mind-body interventions, lifestyle interventions, and neutraceuticals. Sleep medicine, 17, 99–105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2015.09.009

  4. Pan, W., Wang, M., Li, M., Wang, Q., Kwak, S., Jiang, W., & Yamamoto, Y. (2015). Actigraph evaluation of acupuncture for treating restless legs syndrome. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2015, 343201. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/343201

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