Will a Tens Unit Help Restless Leg Syndrome?

When someone has restless leg syndrome it can be a daily battle to be able to get a good night’s sleep and settle your legs at night. 

Will a Tens Unit Help Restless Leg Syndrome

There are many different recommended treatments for helping with restless legs so that those who have this condition can get quality sleep at night. 

One of the treatments people living with restless leg syndrome have found to work is called a TENS unit. If you’ve heard of this as a treatment option, here’s what you need to know and how it relates to restless leg syndrome. 

What is restless leg syndrome?

This condition is one that causes the person living with it to experience unpleasant sensations in their legs. 

Typically these sensations will happen when a person is sitting, resting or sleeping – mostly at night. Due to these uncomfortable sensations, people often have trouble sleeping or getting quality sleep because their legs can’t settle and they may feel like they need to get up and walk around at night. 

The longer someone goes without treatment for this condition, the worse it can get. People will also suffer from the long-term effects of lack of sleep – which can include depression and anxiety. 

One of the treatments people have started using for this condition is called a TENS unit. While there isn’t a lot of research on this kind of treatment, many people with restless leg syndrome are reporting positive results. 

What is a TENS unit?

A Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) unit is a device that will send small electrical currents to very targeted/specific body parts. 

The currents have been shown to relieve or reduce pain in the body, either from injury or medical conditions. 

There are some units that are specifically designed for using in a hospital setting and by professional, while other units are made to be brought home for personal use. 

What does the TENS unit do?

With the electrical pulses that are sent through the skin, the pulses control the pain signals in your body. This can cause temporary or permanent relief from the pain someone is experiencing. The pulses can help control the over stimulated nerves and release endorphins so that the person using it can get some relief. 

Are there any side effects to this kind of treatment?

This kind of therapy is considered to be safe for most people who want to use it. There may be some situations where the person is recommended to have the therapy done in a professional healthcare setting – like a hospital or physical therapy clinic. 

In some cases, the electrical current may be too much for a patient to take and it can cause a burning feeling on their skin. If this happens, the irritation may be a little too much for someone to take and so they can’t participate in this therapy. 

Restless leg syndrome can affect pregnant women for all or part of their pregnancy, and it’s temporary for them. It is recommended, though, for women who are pregnant to not use this kind of therapy. 

Additionally, if you have a heart condition you will want to consult with your doctor before participating in this kind of therapy as it may not be recommended for certain heart conditions. 

How is TENS therapy administered?

There is a unit involved in this therapy that sends low-voltage currents into the body. In addition to the small device, there are electrode pads that are placed on the body in a specific area – the area that someone is experiencing pain or discomfort in.

The electrode pads are connected to the main device via wires, and then when the unit is turned on the currents will move from the device to the pads and sent through the skin. 

The current frequency can be increased or decreased depending on what the person using it feels comfortable with, and what provides them with the most relief. 

For most people, the sessions with this therapy will last about 15 minutes at a time but sessions can be administered as often as someone feels it’s needed. 

Is there any special preparation required to prepare for this type of treatment?

When it comes to this treatment, you don’t need to do any kind of special preparation really. 

For those people using this device at home, they will need to know where to place the pads for targeting the specific area causing them pain. 

If you get this treatment in a hospital or clinical setting, then the doctor or healthcare professional will know where to place the pads for you. 

How does a TENS unit help specifically with restless leg syndrome?

Many people who are living with this condition report that their legs often have these painful sensations, almost like pins and needles. 

These symptoms most often happen when a person is resting or trying to fall asleep at night, so it can make getting quality sleep really difficult. 

If someone with restless leg syndrome has a TENS unit at home, they can put the electrode pads on their legs in the area that is bothering them the most. 

Then, by turning on the device, the TENS unit will send electrical current to the targeted area. From there, the currents will help to calm down the overactive and excited nerves. 

This process helps relieve almost all pain felt from restless leg syndrome. The amount of time it helps for is different for everyone – some people report long-lasting relief – like for a couple days – and some people will have to use it every night so they can go to sleep. 

When someone is first starting, they may use the device at a low current and only once every few days. As time goes on, people may find that they need a little extra current or to use the device more often to get that kind of relief. 

Where can you purchase a TENS unit for your home?

If you want to try this kind of therapy to help with your restless leg syndrome symptoms, you can purchase them from various home healthcare stores. 

In some cases, the purchase of this unit could be covered by private insurance benefits however you will have to check in with your individual insurance to see what kind of coverage you have. 

You may want to see if there is a healthcare provider or clinical setting where you can try it out and see if it provides relief for you before investing in your own unit. 

If you have questions about one of these units and your restless leg syndrome, talk to your doctor and see if there’s a way you can try it out before investing in one. 

Other options to help with restless leg syndrome

While a TENS unit can help with the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, there are other things you can do to help relieve any pain or discomfort you’re feeling. 

In addition to using a TENS unit, regular exercise has been shown to help with the discomfort experienced at night or while resting. 

The exercise doesn’t have to be super intense or cause you pain in other ways, but even just walking for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference for the symptoms you experience. 

Other people who live with restless leg syndrome have said that following a healthy, balanced diet can help to get rid of the symptoms experienced – or even just decrease the discomfort. 

In Summary 

Living with restless leg syndrome can be really frustrating: you try to sleep at night and get some rest but your legs just won’t settle or it feels like constant pins and needles happening in your legs. 

This can become a vicious cycle because being fully rested can go a long way for helping with the symptoms of this condition but it can be really difficult to get good rest when you can’t fall asleep. 

Using a TENS unit can really help to relieve the pain and discomfort you’re feeling with having restless leg syndrome and it’s a non-invasive therapy option. 

This device is really easy to use at home by yourself, and you can use the pads to target the areas where you feel the most pain. 

The great part about this kind of therapy is that you can use it whenever you need it, and as often as you need to. It is only recommended that you do the sessions for 15 minutes at a time, however most people feel tremendous relief in just that time with a TENS unit. 

If medication and other therapies haven’t worked for you, and you’re still feeling a lot of discomfort from having restless leg syndrome then a TENS unit may be the best option for you. 


Talk to your doctor about your options for using this therapy and if doing it at home could be the right option for you. You may need to go into a medical center to begin with, however if it works out purchasing a unit to have at home could really help you see long-term relief from restless leg syndrome.