Treating Restless Legs Syndrome with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

The wind feels perfect, and you can hear the crickets outside. The area around you in your bed is quite noisy and restless; however, all you feel is peace and quiet. Its perfect. Until you feel some very unpleasant sensation in your legs. Sometimes, you may have the compulsion to move your legs. This sensation is called restless legs syndrome (RLS), or also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. To answer your question, no, it is not normal because it is a common disorder of the nervous system that genetically runs in families.  There are many cases when RLS that make people move their arms and bodies as well. Therefore, you are most likely to have this sensation when you sit still for a long time while driving or in the theater watching a captivating movie.

Most patients cannot fall asleep at night because the sensation may last all throughout the night. While the symptoms appear both in childhood and adulthood, the disorder worsens as you get older.  According to stats, up to 10% of the US population has RLS.  Studies have also shown that it is more common among women than men. If yours is chronic, it is not normal. However, this article will show you how acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help you relieve its symptoms in a healthy way.


You may be wondering, “What are the causes?” Well, medical scientists haven’t been able to establish the actual causes of the disorder yet. Nonetheless, there is a strong indication that it could be a result of the imbalance of the brain chemical, dopamine, which primarily sends messages to the brain (basal ganglia) to control the movement of the muscles.  There are many triggers to RLS, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, smoking, overweightness or obesity, stress, excess intake of caffeine or alcohol, lithium (used for people who have bipolar disorder), and etc. On the other hand, many of these triggers do not directly cause RLS, they only make the sensations worse.


The symptoms are discussed below:

  • Rest-induced sensation: This sensation sets in if you have maintained a particular position for a while. It could be that you are in the theater, driving, or lying down.
  • Nighttime leg twitching: When you have RLS, you may also experience periodic limb movement of sleep, which leaves your legs twitching and kicking at night when you are fast asleep. The implication is that your sleep may be disrupted and you wish you could get more sleep.
  • Leg Discomfort: Another symptom associated with the disease is leg discomfort. It often comes with discomforting limb sensations, which adults often describe as creeping, burning, gnawing, pulling, tugging, etc. Although this discomfort is more common around the time you are going to sleep, some people have reported that they experienced it in daytime and it disrupted their daily activities.
  • Urge to move legs (or arms): Also, you will have the uncontrollable desire to move your legs or arms. This is particularly because you have the natural desire to relive the associated discomfort. As always, this happens when you have sat or lain down for a while.
  • Sleepless daytime: People often get a nap when they are free in the day or they want to get some rest after working the previous night. However, when you have RLS, you will find it pretty difficult to sleep during the day.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the reason you have restless legs syndrome is that Yang does not move and Yin stagnates in the lower part of your body. To treat the disease using acupuncture, you need to focus on certain acupoints such as Zhongdu (GB 32). This enables you to move the Yang (Yang Shu) and Zhongdu (LR 6), as they play a crucial role in the local stagnation of Yin (Yin Zhi).

In addition, Willis-Ekbom disease can be treated by taking care of the following:

  • Kidney essence deficiency: For this, the right acupoints are KI 6×2, BL 23×2 and LR 13×2
  • Spleen Qi deficiency: This can lead to the irritation of the liver. The right acupoints for the treatment are SP 6×2, SP 9×2, SP 10×2, BL 20×2, LR 3×2, LR 8×2, and LR 13×2
  • Qi flow disharmony: This is another factor you need to consider while treating the disorder. That is, the Qi flow disharmony in the Yin/Yang superficial meridian of the lower limbs. The recommended acupoints are GV 4, CV 4, GB 34×2, SP 6×2, SP 21×2, LI 11×2, and GB 41×2.

While trying to use acupuncture to treat the condition, you are strongly advised not to apply electro-stimulation because it is hypersensitive. Also, leaving the needle for about 15 – 20 minutes after the arrival of Qi is very effective Another effective way to treat RLS is by applying scalp and auricular acupuncture microsystems.

Alternatively, researchers have found other acupoints for treating the health condition. That’s right! These acupoints are Sheshu (BL23), Xuehai (SP10), CHensham (BL57), Zusani (ST36), Taixi (KD3) and Sanyinjiao (SP6). When acupuncture is applied at Jianshi-Neiguan acupoints, this also inhibits the sympathetic nerve, slows down inflammatory reflex and boosts your immune system. Upon successful completion of the therapy, there should be a close follow-up for 8 weeks.


According to the Healthcare Medicine Institute, the success rate of both acupuncture and Chinese herbs in treating RLS is 95.24%, which is very impressive. In other words, this proposes that the East Asian therapy is potent for treating RLS. The researchers also noted that the influences of du, taiyang, and shaoyang channel blockages play important roles in treating Willis-Ekbom disease. What’s more, the team opined that the Chinese formula for getting the desired result is Jia Wei Xiao Yao Tang, which contains 20 herbs such as Mu Dan Pi, Zhi Zi, Bai Ji Li, Gui Ban, Zhi Me, etc.

Likewise, in a 2015 study, the Associate Principal Scientist at Hansoh Bio, Weidong Pan, and his team evaluated the Chinese therapy to ascertain if it can be used to treat RLS. During the study, 38 patients that were admitted to the Department of Neurology and Department of Acupuncture of Shuguang Hospital – which is affiliated to Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine – became the participants. In the end, Mr. Pan and his team concluded that acupuncture was effective in treating the disorder, adding that six weeks should be enough for a specialist to treat an RLS patient.


In a nutshell, you have learned why TCM can treat restless legs syndrome, how you can achieve your desired result, and the amount of time or duration. Additionally, you have also seen studies that approved of TCM since it’s proven to be extremely safe if administered professionally and accurately. Moreover, you have also learned that there are many different ways you can treat restless legs syndrome using acupuncture. In truth, acupuncture is a traditional therapy that many Chinese natives have used to treat themselves and others for centuries.  If you are unsure about the acupoints or even about the context of this article, feel free to contact us about any unanswered questions that you many have. Don’t feel shy, our team of acupuncturists and Dr. Zhou is here to help in any way possible so you obtain help or treatment to guide you through your health journey safely.


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