Using near infrared light to manage symptoms associated with restless legs syndrome. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26756803
. A quote from the article,"A significant improvement in IRLSRS scores was observed."
Small study - and since I only have the abstract, who knows how it was designed or what symptoms and how severe. But, really fascinating. And, it appears to have replicated similar results from another small study in 2011.
They suggest a mechanism - the IR light somehow encourages production and/or liberation of nitric oxide (perhaps by unbinding it from hemoglobin) which leads to a cascade of effects that culminate in dilation of the peripheral blood vessels. Dilation means more blood and more oxygen reaching the tissues.
This brings to mind the hypoxia theory, that low oxygen in the tissues somehow causes WED sensations. One possible mechanism mentioned in this paper is that impaired circulation might lead to a build-up of toxic metabolites or other such damage to the veins, and this results in abnormal sensory signals.
All this also reminds me of the case studies in which varicose vein surgery eliminated WED symptoms.
In the paper they mention that nitric oxide can also act as a neurotransmitter and affects nerve conduction properties, so it may exert a beneficial influence on WED/RLS somehow via that route.
I find all these benefits of NO kind of bizarre, since NO is a free radical and I've been brainwashed that free radicals are all bad. Not so.
The device they used to administer near-infrared light across the skin is a simple-looking hand-held device made by Dynatronics Corporation, Salt Lake City, UT. EDITED to add link and price: http://www.dynatronics.com/CatalogResul ... fault.aspx
$2000, sold by prescription only.
Just to summarize the paper a bit more: they had 21 subjects, there was no control group, instead they compared pre-treatment and post-treatment values of a number of parameters, including some subjective ones which could have been influenced by the placebo effect (eg. the IRLSRS scale) and some that couldn't (eg. testing for protective sensation in the soles of the feet - whether the subject could detect the pressure needed to bend a thin filament whose end was placed against the sole of the foot - going to thinner and thinner filaments until the subject could not detect it anymore).
The IRLSRS score dropped by an average of 10 which is enough to take you from the moderate to mild category, and two of seven subjects who lacked protective sensation in the soles of their feet regained it (actually, 18 locations on the soles of each subject were tested, for 378 total locations, of which 63 locations in 7 subjects lacked protective sensation before the study and only 51 locations in 5 subjects after the study).