Compression devices calm restless legs: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - The results of a study suggest that compression devices can produce significant improvements in patients with restless legs syndrome, a movement disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs that worsen when a person is inactive, such as during sleep.

Drug therapy for restless legs syndrome (RLS) may be ineffective or complicated by side effects, Dr. Christopher J. Lettieri and Dr. Arn H. Eliasson, from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC, explain in the medical journal Chest.

Their study suggests that compression devices, which apply air pressure to the leg at regular intervals, may be an alternative therapy for RLS.

The investigators randomly assigned 35 patients with RLS to wear either an active compression device or a sham device prior to the usual onset of RLS symptoms for a minimum of 1 hour daily. They assessed symptoms of RLS at the start of the study and after 1 month of treatment.

Results showed that active compression provided significantly greater improvements in illness severity, quality of life, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue compared with sham compression. All quality of life measures, including social function, daytime function, sleep quality, and emotional well-being, were improved to a greater extent with active compression.

Roughly one third of patients in the active compression arm reported complete relief of restless legs syndrome compared with none of the control subjects.

Lettieri and Eliasson think the “most likely” candidates for compression devices would be patients who are unresponsive or incompletely responsive to medication for RLS; patients who can’t tolerate the side effects of RLS drugs; or in situations where it is advisable to avoid drug-drug interactions.

SOURCE: Chest January 2009.

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