A New, Effective Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome: Orgasm

By Patrick Morgan | April 2, 2011 4:03 pm

Spasms. Burning sensations. Sleep deprivation. To those suffering with restless leg syndrome (RLS), these are nightly afflictions. New research suggests that orgasm—by any means possible—may be a good way to alleviate the condition.

RLS is a neurological disorder that afflicts upwards of 10% of people in the U.S. and Europe: As RLS-sufferers try to sleep, their legs experience burning, tickling, aching, and itching sensations; these uncomfortable feelings build up until the leg spasms out of control. This cycle repeats throughout the night, writes news.com.au Technology Editor Peter Farquhar, and “it’s not unusual for people who suffer RLS … to describe it as torturous.”

So why do some people’s legs do this? According to the NIH, “in most cases, the cause of RLS is unknown,” though “it may have a genetic component.” Nevertheless, experts do have some inkling of the cause, as the NIH reports on their website:

Considerable evidence suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in the brain’s basal ganglia circuits that use the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements.

Capitalizing on this finding, pharmaceutical companies developed drugs affecting the dopamine system, which have grown into the primary treatment for RLS. By flooding the brain with dopamine before you go to bed, muscles relax and the burning-spasm cycle subsides.

Which brings us to orgasm and, more specifically, masturbation. Luis Marin and his team at the Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil, picked up on this dopamine-RLS link, making a logical extension: Masturbation can cause an orgasm and an orgasm releases dopamine and dopamine can calm RLS; therefore, masturbation may also calm RLS. And as he reports in April’s Sleep Medicine, that’s exactly what happened when a 41-year-old man with RLS masturbated.

Granted, Marin only found that the man’s legs calmed down after masturbation: The dopamine-mediated chain of events between masturbation and relief are (educated) speculations. He thinks that nature’s largest blast of dopamine acts in the same way as the dopamine drugs, and he points to a past study to make his case. In the previous study, scientists looked at brain scans of ejaculating men, discovering that the release of dopamine was so intense that orgasms actually have a similar effect on our brains as heroin. Our natural dopamine spurts act much like our most powerful drugs.

As for applications, Marin sees masturbation as a possible natural alternative to dopamine drugs in the treatment of RLS. This presumably makes way for some interesting excuses: “Hey, I’m just taking my medicine…”

Related Content:
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Squirrels masturbate to avoid sexually transmitted infections
80beats: Musical Thrills Are Explained as a Rush of Dopamine to the Brain
Discoblog: Move Over, Heroin: “Sugar Addiction” May Be a Reality
80beats: How Ritalin Works in the Brain: With a One-Two Dopamine Punch

Image: flickr / Bryan Gosline

  • Dennis

    Does it have to be orgasm through masturbation?
    Wouldn’t orgasm via intercourse have the same effect?
    Because, you know, that could be a great pick-up line…

  • http://blog.coturnix.org Coturnix

    Correct. The New Scientist article about this paper focused on masturbation, so everyone else ran with it. But the paper itself is careful to say it is orgasm regardless of the method one uses to reach it. It certainly can be through intercourse.

  • http://deepseanews.com/2011/03/first-thoughts-on-honshu-tsunami/ Rick MacPherson

    or chocolate…

  • Meryt

    Chocolate does not work.
    Running your legs works, though. Sit in a chair and run your legs for half an hour.
    Of course, masturbation is more fun.

  • http://lifeasacarrot.blogspot.com the carrot

    I’ve suffered from so-called RLS for a great number of years, although didn’t know there was a scientific name for it. my legs burn and itch all night long, like a thousand ants are crawling all over them, it’s not a funny thing to endure at all. Often i end up jumping about all over the place, twitching and what not for hours, until i fall asleep eventually completely exhausted. only to wake up feeling more tired than when i went ot bed.

    However, I have found (besides the efficacy of the claimed treatment in this article … har har) that taking an anti-inflamatory with a glass of milk just before bedtime puts an end to it. that said, i’d rather be addicted to self-love (or even better love-making with someone else), than prescription drugs. :)

    great article this.

  • ViewsAskew

    Interesting. Here are a few thoughts…

    “…it may have a genetic component,” is not an accurate statement. It does have a genetic component in at least 50% of cases, maybe more. They’ve identified several genes that are involved. Too bad the NIH is not up to date on their info! See studies specifically by Dr Rye of Emory for more info.

    RLS patients and doctors have known for many years that an orgasm does help some patients. At one RLS forum where I’ve been a member for many years, we’ve talked about it numerous times. But, it does not help all and when it does help, it doesn’t last for hours in some cases. In a few cases, the orgasm actually made the RLS worse. As someone with 24/7 RLS, believe me I’ve tried in the name of scientific research. It usually does not help me and twice it has actually made it worse. Since those two incidents, I have not tried to use this as a treatment again.

    To Dennis – no, the orgasm can come through other ways. In fact, masturbation isn’t the key at all – having an orgasm is (at least according to the many RLS sufferers who’ve commented on it at the RLS forum). So, however you come by it, it’s all good (pun intended).

  • Meryt

    @ the carrot, @viewsaskew:

    Ask your doctor for a scrip – ropinirole. A couple of those at bedtime and you sleep like a baby.

    What hasn’t been mentioned is that RLS affects mostly women – I wonder how this condition and its recommended cure will affect marital relations.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Dennis and Coturnix: Good point: it’s really any orgasm that seems to help. The mechanism we discussed suggested that, but I just tweaked the title and text to make it clearer.

    Thanks for catching our (ahem) screw-up.

  • Rob

    Ha! Not funny, that. I stopped masturbating years ago because it was too depressing. If I had to hazard a guess I would say that is about when my legs started acting up.

  • http://facebook jimmy brandow

    i am bad off. i have rls every night and really am worn out from it. i need a natural cure

  • Sam

    What do you suggest for the person that has so many surgeries that their body, (and mind) has lost all interest in sex in any form… mainly because of the pain it causes. Is there something better than Mirapex?

    • Fiona

      Try methodone… It’s wonderful and no more rls. In controlled doses it is not addictive and you have far less side effects than Mirapex or Ropinarole.

  • Michael

    I’ve had RLS all my life and the only thing that always works for me in the end is splashing cold water on my ‘pressure points’ as I call them. I splash water on my forehead, behind my ears, neck, ankles, backs of my knees, wrists, insides of my elbows, and my solar plexus. Almost always works.

  • RC

    I’ve had RLS for a number of years. I’m 41 now and I can remember having it as a kid. It went away for years and re-appeared about 10 years ago. I discovered quite by accident (while awake, might as well do something!!!) that orgasm allowed me to go to sleep. As I am not a 24/7 sufferer, I now find masturbation does wonders! Not sure what I’m gonna do when I am much much older, but for now it works!

  • http://None Jack

    Now I’m afraid that this ‘newest’, natural solution for RLS may result in an increase in RSS……and if Mediare will cover that, too…

  • TSH

    My RLS started 8 years ago when I was pregnant. My OB at Stanford told me to take either Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Glycinate before bed, and never take Calcium at the same time as newer research shows they both compete for the same cell receptor site. I had my magnesium level checked and, sure enough, it was very low, which in my case was caused by malabsorption in my intestines. After taking magnesium, it takes about 20 minutes for my RLS to go away. If you google “magnesium dopamine” you find that “dopamine is a magnesium-dependent neurotransmitter”, so if you don’t have enough magnesium you’re not going to be able to make dopamine. Not that the suggestion in this article isn’t a good (and fun) one to try, but I wonder if the people it didn’t work for might have a magnesium deficiency? It would be interesting to find out what would happen if these same people first took magnesium and then gave masturbation another try….?

  • Jenny

    My mom suffers from RLS and she is in her late 70s, steady churchgoer as she is I can not bring myself to inform her of this treatment method. She took Ropigen for along time until started to take VB12m, it works great and has no side effects. you can read about it here:

    I love the article though…dopamine huh…

  • perditax

    Could not help noticing the date and wonder if someone is pulling an elaborate April Fool’s joke?

  • Thomas

    I’ve had RLS for years, as did my mom. Several years ago I read an article that claimed that it was caused in many people by a magnesium deficiency. Started taking two magnesium tablets a day (one in a.m.; one in p.m.) and it has virtually gone away. I still occasionally get a twinge of the feeling, but it usually doesn’t last long.

  • bitsy

    OMG YES, orgasm will take you mind off of your “crazy legs”. It will also distract you from pain, stress and whatever ails our or distracts you! Plus it’s healthy!
    Staying up all night pacing and massaging, masterbating, sipping wine till oblivion takes over …but no sedative or tranquilizer will do the job without side effects. I’ve tried EVERYTHING! ===prescription narcotics work too… and they have been prescribed and taken properly.
    Some of the drugs that actually work without ANY side effects are:


    There are side effects that I have NOT experienced. I watched the :TAKE30″ show and you should too..

    In spite of all the negative side effects that have been noted; I do not gamble, I have sex with only my love and it is healthy and good… He watched the take 30 episode with me and is well aware of the adverse effects in personality. He would tell me if something was not right.

    You may contact me if you have actually reached this far to discuss any medical issues, side effects or ways you have coped.

    please put in the subject line: RESTLESS LEGS

    Kind Regards,

  • Handyman

    Maybe that’s why I’ve never had restless leg syndrom. I masturbate every day.

  • Mike L

    I’ve had severe RLS for most of my 43 years and agree it is torture. I have tried aspirin, anti-inflammatories, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, Miraprex, strenuous and mild leg exercises and orgasms and none of those work better than maybe a 10% improvement for 2-3 hours before the RLS comes back full force.

    I have been taking 300mg magnesium supplements with 2 Valerian Root tablets for natural drowsiness for the past 4 months before bed and have slept better than I ever have my whole life but even then it is maybe an 80% improvement for 6 hours. I also have noticed that when I go off refined carbs (breads, HFCS and sugars) completely and take the magnesium I sleep perfectly through the night for the entire 7-8 hours in bed. But I love the carbs too much to give them up forever and even a reduction to 10% of intake loses the benefit.

    In hopes of further improvement I plan to try taking more magnesium throughout the day and also upping my calcium and zinc intake to see if those help as well. Still I have been amazed with the improvements with magnesium alone.

  • joe delago

    I had RLS… I stoped the intake of ASPARTAME (diet sodas, gum and many other diet products) Within a few days the RLS stopped.. and has not returned in months. ASPARTAME (equal in the blue packets) seems to be poison for our bodeis.. try it.. It also alleviated muscle pain too.

  • Mike L

    I went off aspartame and other artificial sweeteners along with caffeine for 1 year with little to no reduction in my RLS.

  • http://www.Privic.com Ria

    I tried so many things to stop my legs from shaking i only found this privic spray that calms my legs…you can check them out at http://www.privic.com, hope it can help you too…

  • http://HelenaOnLove.com Shama Helena

    Although I have limited experience with RLS, I have extensive experience with work on Pelvic tension. So many of us, due to previous trauma, hold a lot of energy in the pelvic area, which can cause any number of problems. Massage in the entire pelvic region can relieve much, and I wonder if studies on massage techniques including the lower back, glutes, inner thighs, vagina, anus, and other groin musculature have shown any positive effects?

  • http://www.privic.com shaun

    You can masturbate all you want but you will still not get good relief , you can try privic it will help you go to sleep it works for me

  • http://news.uofthenet.info/topics/psychology/sleep/ Debra Stang

    The sleep blog, “A Good Night’s Sleep” at Alliant International University recently posted a blog reporting that research has linked restless leg syndrome to a genetic cause. With time and further research, this will allow us to predict who will be afflicted by RLS, as well as develop more effective medications.

    I do think orgasm for RLS is an intriguing suggestion, though. Until new medicine is available, these kinds of things are good to know!

    Debra Stang
    Alliant Professional Networking Specialist

  • David Castillo

    I have had RLS for as long as I can remember. My grandmother had it and so did my mother.I have tried evrything including mastrabation(does provide some relief) Nothing ever works for more then a couple hours I am exausted every day of the week. The only thing that has ever worked for me is doctor perscribed medications(narcotics) I wory about addictive qualitys of these meds, but after three weeks of no sleep whats worse for you? The best method is talk to your doctor go with what works best for you may it be some ” special alone time” vitamins or a doctor prescribed med.

  • Bebe

    I believe it.. If I dont mb, legs wont let me sleep… Doesnt take a study to figure that out..

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous


  • Michael

    I actually figured this one out by myself. LOL I was in Rehab for opiate addiction. One of the more insidious withdraws comes in the form of Restless Leg Syndrome. Not just restless legs, I had the same sensation in my back and arms. I couldn’t sleep at all until out of sheer frustration I tried to “relieve myself”. I did and WHAMMO!, the sensations in my legs and arms went away but slowly came back after the endorphin’s wore off, I suppose. It doesn’t matter how you have the orgasm. All that matters is IF you have one…. and if you do it’ll go away…. for a while.

  • Freedom

    After my husband and I sepeated no more sex I began to have restless legs really bad. After a year we got back together and I notice that I didn’t have problems with my legs at night after having sex. Sad to say  but we divorce and for another year I dealth with this. So yes haveing orgasm really help. I don’t have a partner for sex so I found another remdiey and it chaomile tea. Drink one cup of  hot tea before bed and you sleep well. Make a big cup just incase you wake up thru the night drink some more and you are good to go.  Chaomile Tea is my bed partner now. It really works.

  • http://www.risqueboutique.com masturbation toys

    Now I have another reason to do it. I’ll try that when I have spasms.

  • Mollysdogs

    I have RLS – it started as early as I can remember and wasn’t diagnosed until I was 30 – I figured out very young that masturbation was the only way I could get to sleep. It DOES help – unfortunately its a very temporary thing most of the time – sometimes only five or ten minutes of relief before it starts again. I always thought I had an over active sex drive but its definitely related to the RLS.

  • Nspitler

    This is for real, I have had this for many years, and so has my Grandfather, Dad and a brother. Heard about this first time from Bill Mahr. I have had lovers upset thatIi cannot sleep  with them with out doing the “fun thing” but it is my sleep and if i do not get it, sorry to you.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2WYJJODL56OUJSDH7S5W5445YU Yhan

    heres a site where you could get all the orgasm that you wanted… free porngun videos

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HCO2UTYZDBLVVNJCBKVA2AZ6PE Bryan

    I found this article by googling “nervous leg syndrome masturbation”.  I started to get RLS around the age of 37. For some odd reason it only hits me if I go to bed, fall asleep, and then get woken up again shortly after falling asleep.  Example: I have just barely dozed off, only just a step into that dreamy sleepy place, when my wife (who doesn’t even know I’m already asleep) asks me if I closed and locked the garage door, or something.  Bam.  I’m screwed (no pun intended.)  I would often lay in bed for hours twitching my legs and tossing and turning, fighting off the urge to get up and run a marathon.  My legs simply wouldn’t relax.

    One such night I woke my wife up with all my twitching and tossing, and I was so unable to relax that I coaxed her into having sex.  She was perfectly willing, of course, and when we were done, I felt an immense sense of relaxation, peace, and relief.  After kissing her and thanking her and making sure she was satisfied, I fell asleep almost at once.

    About a week later, I was again fighting RLS but this time my wife was dead to the world, sawing logs right next to me.  After almost two hours of not being able to get to sleep, I grabbed a hand towel and masturbated.  Immediately after the orgasm was finished, I slipped into a peaceful, sweet, dreamy sleep.  The relief was profound, and it came instantly after the orgasm.

    My wife and I are very open about masturbation.  It’s not something we both do often, but we both do it. Her bottom nightstand drawer is full of toys, and if she’s in the mood and I’m not around, she’ll make full use of them. So, the next morning I told her about what had happened the night before, and she expressed relief that I had found a solution.  She also told me I could have woken her up for sex and she would have been fine, but I would have felt selfish and self serving yanking her out of a deep slumber to satisfy my own needs.

    Three years later, I am still using this remedy as a relief for RSL.  Sometimes it’s sex, sometimes it’s masturbation.  Either way, RLS has totally ceased to cause me to loose sleep.  I got to wondering if I was the only person who knew about or used this remedy, so I googled it.  Turns out there have been scientific studies on the topic!  Glad to know others know about this as well.

  • drn2002

    I am 29 years old and on my 2nd pregnancy.  I’ve suffered from RLS for a number of years now.  My husband and I figured out that after we have sex my legs would relax long enough for me to fall asleep.  When he is unavailable for sex, I just help myself.  I find RLS is worse at night for me or if I’m stuck sitting still for awhile.  Being pregnant has definitely worsened symptoms for me.  I can’t take anything while pregnant but Tylenol and it doesn’t really do anything anyways.  I’m hoping once I deliver the RLS goes back to “normal” for me or stops.

  • Lmhaake

    I have tried every non medicinal option for restless legs including multiple orgsms and none of it works. I might be able to sleep a very short time after an orgasm, but my restless legs will wake me up within an hour. The only thing that works is vicodin or ropinirole.

  • felicja

    time for you porn


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar