Matching Restless Legs Syndrome Treatment to Your Symptoms


Paige Greenfield

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When it comes to treating restless legs syndrome (RLS), there's no one-size-fits-all prescription. You may need to try several medications to find the one that offers relief from your symptoms. 

Different medications used to treat RLS target different aspects of the disorder. For instance, some may work better at helping you fall asleep at night, while others help manage pain. Since your doctor will determine the best treatment for you based largely on your specific symptoms, it's important to be clear about the symptoms you experience as well as any changes that develop with time.

Here's a look at which medications work best for treating different symptoms of RLS. 

If you experience:

Talk with your doctor about:

Uncontrollable leg twitching or jerking movements when trying to sleep. These are symptoms of periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS), a condition that affects about 80% of people with RLS. 

Dopaminergic agents such as pramipexole (Mirapex) and ropinirole (Requip). These drugs increase levels of dopamine in the brain and help reduce symptoms of moderate-to-severe RLS, as well as PLMS. 

Difficulty sleeping because of mild or sporadic RLS symptoms 

Sedative-hypnotics, a type of drug typically used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and insomnia. These medications may help people with RLS sleep better at night. 


Opioids, which are prescription pain medications. They can decrease pain and help people with severe RLS relax. Treatment starts at the lowest possible dosage. Opioid dependence is less common among RLS patients as long as they have no prior history of drug abuse.

Uncomfortable sensations in the legs such as creeping or crawling 

Anticonvulsant medications used to treat people with epilepsy, as well as the newly approved medication Horizant. These drugs may relieve the disturbing feelings in your legs. 

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 5, 2017

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Medical References

  1. Treating Restless Legs Syndrome. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. National Institutes of Health.
  2. Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. National Institutes of Health. Feb. 16, 2011.
  3. Gabapentin. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2011.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions. Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation.

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