Restless legs syndrome and near-infrared light: An alternative treatment option

Physiother Theory Pract. 2011 Jul;27(5):345-51. doi: 10.3109/09593985.2010.511440. Epub 2010 Oct 26.


There are few treatment options in managing restless legs syndrome (RLS); the most frequently used are dopaminergic drugs and movement. New treatment options are highly sought after. This study evaluated the effectiveness of monochromatic near-infrared light treatment in decreasing symptoms associated with RLS. The design used was 2×6 repeated-measures design with two groups (treatment and control) and six repeated measures (baseline, weeks 1-4, and posttreatment). Data collection took place in the university modalities laboratory. Thirty-four volunteers with symptoms of RLS were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group. Over a 4-week period subjects underwent twelve 30-min treatments to their lower legs with near-infrared light. The International RLS rating scale (IRLS) was used to assess and track patient symptoms. There was a steady decrease in symptoms associated with RLS over the 4 weeks in the treatment group. After 4 weeks of treatment the treatment group had a significantly greater improvement in restless legs syndrome symptoms than the control group (p<0.001); improvement was still significant after 4 weeks posttreatment compared to baseline (p<0.001). Treatment with near-infrared light does decrease symptoms associated with RLS as demonstrated in lower IRLS scores. This new noninvasive method of treating RLS might become a valuable new management option. More research is needed to determine the mechanism(s) behind infrared light treatment and RLS.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infrared Rays / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Utah