Does CBD Oil Work for RLS?
- Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an uncontrollable and painful movement of the legs.
- CBD has shown significant results in treating neurological disorders(1). According to research, cannabidiol has improved the quality of life of people with nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s disease(2).
- RLS is characterized by difficulty in sleeping due to the legs’ uncontrollable movement. As much as 10% of adults suffer from RLS, making it one of the most common sleep disorders(3).
- Since studies are limited, there is still a great need for further research on CBD for RLS. Before using any CBD oil product, consult with a doctor to decide if it is the right thing to consider.
Best CBD Oils for RLS
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Why People are Using CBD for RLS
The overall movement of the legs characterizes the symptoms of RLS. Symptoms can be accompanied by aching, crawling, or itching sensations in the limbs. There can also be leg twitching, especially during sleep.
Studies show that CBD may be useful for chronic pain relief(4) and sleep improvement(5). Other studies suggest that CBD may act as a neuroprotective agent that protects nerve cells from damage(6).
CBD is the non-psychoactive property of cannabis. Unlike its counterpart, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not make people high.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is medically known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. It is a neurological dysfunction that causes an uncontrollable need to move the legs accompanied by unpleasant sensations. The irresistible urge to move the legs often escalates at night, resulting in a lack of sleep.
Studies show that those with brain iron deficiency are prone to RLS(7,8). The brain’s iron sufficiency may not be at the same level as that of the body’s iron levels(9).
Studies show that women who have fibromyalgia, a disorder of the bones and muscles, are most likely to have RLS(10). Sleep disruptions in RLS may aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms, including painful muscles and joints, fatigue, and morning stiffness(11).
While there is no treatment for this condition, symptoms of RLS can be relieved with certain medications.
Dopamine-inducing drugs, also known as dopaminergic drugs, are recommended as treatments for moderate to severe RLS. These drugs increase the brain’s dopamine levels(12). Dopamine is the hormone responsible for controlling body movements
However, the long-term use of these drugs can lead to RLS augmentation, a worse case of RLS that occurs even during the day(13).
Another medication for RLS is Alpha-2-delta ligands (α2δ), an antiseizure medication used by RLS patients to prevent augmentation from dopaminergic drugs(14). However, these medications have side effects, like weight gain and dizziness.
Benzodiazepines are also prescribed for people with RLS to manage anxiety and sleep problems, such as insomnia(15). Although this drug may not relieve RLS symptoms, it may improve sleep quality(16).
Meanwhile, opioids, a type of narcotics, are used for severe RLS that do not respond to previously mentioned treatments. These medications are used to relieve pain and are prescribed in low doses because of its psychoactive properties(17).
Some drugs can worsen RLS over time. These drugs are antidepressants, antihistamines, antipsychotics, and anti-nausea(18).
Unlike pharmaceuticals that have negative side effects, CBD is a natural and safer alternative because of its good safety profile(19).
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of RLS
RLS symptoms usually occur at night, making it difficult for the RLS patient to fall or stay asleep, resulting in sleepiness during the day. RLS is one of the most common sleep disorders. As much as 10% of adults suffer from this condition(20).
CBD has shown significant results in treating neurological disorders, including sleep disorders. Cannabidiol has improved the quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease, according to research(21). Significantly, CBD has also positively developed the quality of sleep for people with Parkinson’s disease(22).
The result may be the interaction of cannabinoids, active chemicals in medical marijuana, and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).
The ECS functions to maintain the body’s homeostasis or equilibrium to adapt to internal changes(23). The function involves interaction among neurotransmitters, cannabinoid receptors, and enzymes that can impact a person’s mood, appetite, immunity, and even pain reception(24).
As CBD enters the body, it activates receptors that may influence the treatment of pain, inflammation, and enables a good night’s sleep(25). These factors may help a person with RLS to feel at ease and rest soundly at night.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for RLS
- CBD is considered as generally safe with an excellent safety profile according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO)(26).
- Pain relief, inflammation reduction, muscle relaxation, and sleep comfortability are potential therapeutic benefits of CBD that can be linked to the treatment of RLS symptoms(27).
- CBD products are legally available in some states without any prescription.
- RLS has no proven cure yet. Further scientific studies and clinical research are needed to prove that CBD is indeed a cure for the medical condition.
- The United States Food and Drug Administration (US-FDA) has approved only one CBD product for epilepsy(28). Other CBD products in the market are still subject to research and clinical trials.
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for RLS
Iron deficiency in RLS patients can be addressed by taking iron supplements orally or intravenously(29). However, oral iron supplements may cause side effects such as constipation, stomach pain, and nausea. Meanwhile, intravenous iron infusion showed improvements in 76% of the patients without any significant side effects(30).
Magnesium supplements are considered as alternative treatments for RLS since these are commonly prescribed for leg cramps(31).
Magnesium serves as a muscle relaxant. It soothes nerve endings and may help alleviate the symptoms of RLS. Magnesium can also be applied through the skin, especially in affected areas(32).
Conventional alternative treatments for RLS involve walking and running to relieve pain by moving the legs. Other treatments may be relaxation techniques, such as meditating, stretching, and massaging affected areas.
In line with this, CBD may aid these alternative treatments for an enhanced treatment with minimal to no severe side effects, presented in studies(33).
How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for RLS
Full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the beneficial plant compounds found in the cannabis plant. This spectrum includes terpenes, the natural aromatic oil of the plant that can contribute to the overall effectiveness(34).
Full-spectrum contains THC, but only up to 0.3% per weight—the legally prescribed limit according to the 2018 Farm Bill(35).
The broad-spectrum CBD oil is the same as full-spectrum, minus the THC. THC is extracted from the product using a process called chromatography, a method of physical separation of compounds.
The purest of the spectrum is called isolate. It only contains CBD, with no terpenes and no THC. It is also the least effective of all three because of its distilled form.
CBD Dosage for RLS
There are no standard dosages for CBD in general. However, the table shown below may be recommended as an initial dosing guide for initial doses based on effects and body weight(36).
|Weight Group||Recommended Dosage for Mild Effects||Recommended Dosage for Moderate Effects||Recommended Dosage for Strong Effects|
|Light (less than 130 lbs.)||11 mg or less||12 mg to 14 mg||15 mg to 17 mg|
|Medium (130 to 230 lbs.)||18 mg or less||19 mg to 23 mg||24 mg to 27 mg|
|Heavy (more than 230 lbs.)||23 mg or less||24 mg to 30 mg||31 mg to 45 mg|
Before taking any dosage, especially for first-time users, it is best to consult a medical professional experienced in cannabis use.
How to Take CBD Oil for RLS
There are several options on how to take CBD for RLS. What might work best for the condition may depend on the symptom and the area or body part concerned.
The most common form is the sublingual CBD. These are oils and tinctures usually taken under the tongue. Some of these products can be mixed with food and can be tasteless, odorless, or flavored.
Another form is the topical CBD. These are creams, balms, and salves that are often applied in a specific area of the skin. The solution is absorbed into the skin through the endocannabinoid receptors.
A fast-acting method of consuming CBD is vaping. Vaping CBD instantly relaxes the user upon inhaling and produces long-lasting effects. CBD oils for vape come in different flavors and are nicotine-free. However, there is a risk of lung damage with vaping.
Other CBD products come in the form of treats, like edible gummies and brownies. These appeal to the general public because of its traditional form.
Restless legs syndrome is a long-term condition that may gravely affect a person’s lifestyle and overall health.
According to studies presented, CBD can help RLS sufferers lighten their symptoms and complications. These symptoms include muscle pain and inflammation, insomnia, and mood swings caused by sleepiness and fatigue.
However, each individual’s metabolism and body composition can affect the effectiveness of CBD. The results may vary from one person to another.
The best way to know how one should treat RLS is by consulting a physician. Always consult a doctor first before trying new treatments or for any questions about the medical condition.
- Maroon, J., & Bost, J. (2018). Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids. Surgical neurology international, 9, 91. https://doi.org/10.4103/sni.sni_45_18
- Chagas, M. H., Zuardi, A. W., Tumas, V., Pena-Pereira, M. A., Sobreira, E. T., Bergamaschi, M. M., dos Santos, A. C., Teixeira, A. L., Hallak, J. E., & Crippa, J. A. (2014). Effects of cannabidiol in the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s disease: an exploratory double-blind trial. Journal of psychopharmacology (Oxford, England), 28(11), 1088–1098. https://doi.org/10.1177/0269881114550355
- Montplasir J, Allen RP, Walters A, Ferini-Strambi L, “Restless Legs Syndrome and Period Limb Movements During Sleep,” in Kryger M, Roth T, Dement W (ed.), Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine (5th Edition), St. Louis: Elsevier Saunders, 2011, pages 1026 – 1037.
- Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928
- Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
- Chagas, M. H., op. cit.
- Connor, J. R., Ponnuru, P., Wang, X. S., Patton, S. M., Allen, R. P., & Earley, C. J. (2011). Profile of altered brain iron acquisition in restless legs syndrome. Brain : a journal of neurology, 134(Pt 4), 959–968. https://doi.org/10.1093/brain/awr012
- Allen, R. P., Picchietti, D. L., Auerbach, M., Cho, Y. W., Connor, J. R., Earley, C. J., Garcia-Borreguero, D., Kotagal, S., Manconi, M., Ondo, W., Ulfberg, J., & Winkelman, J. W. (2018). Evidence-based and consensus clinical practice guidelines for the iron treatment of restless legs syndrome/Willis-Ekbom disease in adults and children: an IRLSSG task force report. Sleep Medicine, 41, 27–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2017.11.1126
- Viola-Saltzman, M., Watson, N. F., Bogart, A., Goldberg, J., & Buchwald, D. (2010). High prevalence of restless legs syndrome among patients with fibromyalgia: a controlled cross-sectional study. Journal of clinical sleep medicine : JCSM : official publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, 6(5), 423–427.
- Hoogwout, S.J., Paananen, M.V., Smith, A.J. et al. Musculoskeletal pain is associated with restless legs syndrome in young adults. BMC Musculoskelet Disord 16, 294 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-015-0765-1
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- Allen RP, Chen C, Garcia-Borreguero D, et al. Comparison of pregabalin with pramipexole for restless legs syndrome. N Engl J Med 2014;370:621-31.
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