Is Nerve Decompression Effective for Restless Leg Syndrome?

mid leg nerves
mid leg nerves
Nerve decompression used to treat peripheral neuropathy may improve symptoms of restless leg syndrome.

According to a retrospective analysis recently published in Frontiers in Neurology, nerve decompression used to treat peripheral neuropathy may improve symptoms of restless leg syndrome (RLS).1

A sleep disorder that affects up to 15% of the general population, RLS is not clearly understood, and available treatments target symptoms rather than the underlying cause. For two-thirds of patients with RLS, the disorder is idiopathic, with an onset before age 45 and a genetic component. RLS is often comorbid with peripheral neuropathy, with incidence ranging from 5.2% to 54%.

Surgical decompression of the common and superficial fibular nerves is a common treatment for peripheral neuropathy, and surgeons who perform this procedure have observed that it also improves RLS symptoms.

In the current study conducted at Anderson Podiatry Center for Nerve Pain in Fort Collins, Colorado, visual analog scale scores of RLS symptoms in 42 patients with peripheral neuropathy and reported RLS symptoms were analyzed. The patients rated their symptoms both before and 15 weeks after undergoing nerve decompression surgery. Symptoms assessed included pain, burning, numbness, tingling, weakness, balance, tightness, aching, pulling, cramping, twitchy/jumpy, uneasy, creepy/crawly, and throbbing.

After surgery, all patients reported experiencing significant improvement in all RLS symptoms except for weakness (P =.019) and pulling (P ≤.01 for all other symptoms).

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The study authors point out that this was a preliminary study that did not include assessment of other attributes of RLS, such as iron deficiency. However, these results warrant further research into the benefit of nerve decompression surgery for RLS.

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  1. Anderson J, Fritz M, Benson J-M, Tracy B. Nerve decompression and restless legs syndrome: a retrospective analysis [July 6, 2017]. Front Neurol. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2017.00287