Massage and Restless Legs


A while ago I read with a fellow sufferer that he benefits greatly from regular massage. He hires someone for that almost weekly. Unfortunately, not everyone can afford such a luxury. For me, for example, this would not be financially feasible.

I regularly massage my calves myself. I often do this when I am awake at night and have restless legs. By then I have usually already done some stretching exercises and yoga. However, when I lie down again, I often find that it takes more than just exercises to calm the restless legs.

It seems that having a regular massage has a beneficial effect. Massages soothe the symptoms of RLS. There are all kinds of massages. I will therefore describe a number of them here. With this I am not giving any advice. I just put a few of them in the spotlight. The following massages are discussed in this blog:

  • Manual lymph drainage
  • Connective tissue massage
  • Sports massage
  • Foot reflexology massage
  • Massage yourself

Manual lymphatic drainage

For the treatment of complaints of restless legs, manual lymphatic drainage is the first option that I will mention here. Manual lymphatic drainage is a gentle massage technique that aims to stimulate the lymphatic system. The technique also helps to better dispose of waste products via tissue fluid and lymph fluid.

RLS involves a disturbance of the blood circulation. This is usually mainly in the calves, but sometimes also in other parts of the body. There is also too much muscle tension in those places. The rhythmic, pumping massage technique of manual lymphatic drainage provides physical relaxation and recovery.

I have never undergone this massage form myself. It seems wonderful and I can certainly imagine that it provides temporary relief from the complaints. It is of course up to you whether you find it worth the effort (and the financial investment) to try it out.

Deep-tissue massage

A connective tissue massage is aimed at loosening connective tissue. Connective tissue supports joints, muscles and organs. It sits just under the skin and physically forms a whole. The treatment of a certain connective tissue zone can therefore have an effect on a different place than where the massage is performed.

This form of massage is not a relaxation massage. Stuck connective tissue is loosened and that is sensitive or even painful. The treatment ensures, among other things, a better blood circulation, stimulates the skin and organs, and reduces pain complaints.

For restless legs, a connective tissue massage can help reduce chronic muscle tension. This is done by loosening muscles and muscle knots. As mentioned, the treatment also promotes better blood flow. A connective tissue massage falls under reflex zone massages. This is partly reimbursed with additional health insurance.

Sports massage

As the word says, a sports massage helps with stiffness in the muscles before or after exercise. I am an athlete myself and I know what stiffness feels like. The stiffness you feel before exercising is different from the one after. Especially if you have trained for a long time. I remember from the past that after a day of competitive exercise my leg muscles felt tired and sour.

The stiffness in my calves that I experience at night due to the restless legs is a bit like that acidification. It’s as if, in inactivity, some kind of unnatural lactic acid builds up in the lower legs. Strange, but true.

Ideally, you would prefer to have a sports masseur on hand if symptoms flare up at night. Unfortunately, that is not realistic. It may also help (temporarily) to regularly undergo a sports massage. You have to be able to afford that financially.

I do not know to what extent the body remembers such a treatment when you go to sleep at night. However, exercise during the day also helps reduce RLS. You could see massage as a passive form of movement.

Foot reflexology massage

Just like other forms of massage, foot reflexology massage can reduce complaints in RLS. By massaging pressure points, this therapy helps to bring the body into better balance. The pressure points are connected to the various organs in the body. Massaging promotes a better blood circulation in the organs and helps in a better removal of waste products.

The effects only show themselves in the somewhat longer term. It is a treatment to support the self-healing capacity of the human body. Foot reflexology massage should be seen as an addition to regular medicine.

This therapy seems very suitable to support your general health. It is not a quick fix, but something you put some time into for a more sustainable result.

Massage yourself

Until now I have not used masseurs to reduce the symptoms of RLS. I actually can’t really afford it financially. Moreover, I prefer not to depend on anyone else for my well-being. So if I have problems at night, I massage my calf muscles myself. From the back of the knee I run the entire length of the calf up to and including the Achilles tendon. I knead the entire (stiff and painful) muscle per centimeter.

There is nothing wrong with treating yourself in this way. However, I have found that the massaging is quite tough on my hands. If I massage several times a night, I get pain in my hands and wrists. The annoying thing is that in the winter I also have to deal with osteoarthritis in my hands. This means that inflammation develops in the fingers. Everything I do with my hands is a painful affair. Massage is quite difficult in such a period.

Fortunately, there are tools to massage yourself. Physically easiest is to use your own knee. It takes some getting used to, but you can also work the entire calf muscle with your knee. There are also attributes that can be used for massaging. I think that’s a hassle, because you have to get those things there at night. In my experience, you wake up too much and I don’t want that at all at such a time.

I also have two such attributes at home that you can use (among others) for your calves. One is a massage roller, the other a kind of tripod (or massage hand). You can both use these manually. There are also other types of massage rollers or foam rollers, with a specific profile or with balls. Some you use manually, just like mine. With others you have to lie on it.


3 thoughts on “Massage and Restless Legs”

  1. T is toch echt gek dat er nog niets voor gevonden is?
    Om dit te verhelpen.
    Mijn man heeft ook pmld erbij,ik zei altijd je beweegt ,heel gek,om de 20 sec,dit kon ik niet vinden bij rls totdat ik bij pmld las,herkenning!
    Hij heeft medicatie geprobeerd,maar werking nam ook af…..
    Hijzelf heeft er niet zoveel last van,hij slaapt door maar ik wordt wakker van het geschop
    🙁 ik herken de symptomen hier van vermoeidheid overdag ,zonder zelf rls te hebben haha
    Hebben jullie ervaring met cupping?
    Of rls sokken?
    Hij heeft bloed laten prikken, was niets afwijkends,dus zomaar ijzertabletten slikken….
    Hij heeft magnesium geprobeerd,werd het erger van
    Mvg Crina

  2. De laatste tijd heb ik meer rusteloze benen dan voorheen. Nu denk ik dat ik weer ‘savonds met de tennisballetjes onder mijn voeten ga masseren. Kijken of de rrl weer minder wordt. Dus de tennisballetjes op de grond en met je voeten eroverheen rollen.

    • Dank je wel voor je reactie, Nel. En wat vervelend dat je de laatste tijd meer last hebt. Masseren met tennisballetjes onder je voeten klinkt als een soort voetreflexmassage. Ik ga het ook eens proberen…

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