Why Do People Experience Leg Shaking? Causes And Treatments

Medically reviewed by April Justice, LICSW
Updated May 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Many people sometimes find themselves unconsciously moving or shaking their legs while sitting in a chair or at a desk or table. This movement may be nothing more than a mindless habit, but sometimes it can be a sign of something more. There are many potential causes of leg shaking, from boredom to anxiety to neurological conditions. If you notice you are shaking your legs a lot, it may be important to pay attention to certain aspects of your leg shaking - and if you want to stop shaking your legs so much, there are strategies you can use to decrease your leg movements.

Are you shaking your legs and don't know why?

Why do people shake their legs?

Some of the causes of leg shaking are nothing to worry about, while others may require the care of a doctor. Your legs may be shaking for one of the following reasons:

  • Boredom. Boredom can be your body's way of telling you that you aren't receiving enough stimulation. Bouncing or shaking your legs can provide just enough stimulus to distract you from whatever boring situation you find yourself in and relieve some of the tension of sitting still.
  • Concentration. Some people may unconsciously shake their legs while concentrating or trying to take in information while studying, writing, or working at a computer.
It's not completely clear why some people use repetitive movements when in a state of concentration, though some believe that the movement may help restless parts of the brain by giving them enough stimulus to keep from interrupting the concentrated state of mind. Research suggests that children with ADHD use repetitive motions in this manner.
  • Nervous energy and anxiety. If you feel nervous about a meeting but need to appear composed and confident, your legs might shake as an outlet for your nervous energy, while the rest of your body appears professionally poised. Leg shaking can often be interpreted as an acceptable expression of anxiety. Screaming or melting down is usually socially unacceptable in a hospital waiting room, business meeting, or courtroom, but quietly moving your legs is not, thus making it a more subtle way to release anxiety.

It’s not entirely understood why repetitive movements like leg shaking help in these situations, but experts believe that people may shake their legs unintentionally as a way of balancing emotions, especially for people who happen to be neurodivergent. Some research suggests that adults with autism use repetitive motion to help manage uncertainty and anxiety in the same way.


Medical conditions

In some cases, repetitive leg movements can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Examples of such conditions include:

  • Nerve or brain damage
  • Thyroid issues 
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS), in which a person feels an uncontrollable urge to move their legs to alleviate crawling, itching, aching, or other unpleasant feelings
  • Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis, nervous system disorders that impair a person's ability to consciously control their limbs and extremities and can cause unmanageable tremors or tics

If shaking your legs is an uncontrollable habit interfering with your quality of life, it may be time to check in with your doctor or healthcare provider. Some medical reasons for leg shaking are quite serious and related to brain function, so seeking the correct treatment is critical.

If you have any of the below additional symptoms, seek help from a healthcare provider immediately:

  • Restlessness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Leg wounds
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Muscle spasms
  • Unusual tingling sensations
  • Permanent trembling
  • Loss of key bodily functions

These symptoms could indicate a medical emergency.

How to stop shaking your legs

If an underlying medical condition isn’t the cause of your leg shaking, you can try a few different techniques to stop the unwanted movement.

Test out a different type of stimulation

If you routinely find yourself moving your legs because you're bored, try incorporating new stimuli: 

  • Take notes 
  • Doodle on a sheet of paper 
  • Chew gum 
  • Suck on a mint 
  • Play with a small fidget toy
  • Twiddle your thumbs

Address your emotions

If you shake your legs when you're anxious, reflect on what may be causing your anxiety. Sometimes, identifying your triggers can be difficult and time-consuming. Working with a qualified counselor or therapist can help.

Make sure you're sleeping enough

If you're not sleeping enough, your body will naturally have less energy and motivation, leading to frustration, anxiety, and leg shaking. Try going to bed an hour or two earlier and see how you feel. More sleep could stop your trembling legs.

Try yoga or meditation

Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help prevent repetitive movements by reducing stress and anxiety. Consider a brief 20-minute session to start off your day.

Are you shaking your legs and don't know why?

Therapy can help

If your tremors seem to be caused by anxiety or another mental health disorder, consider talking to a therapist. The trained, licensed online counselors at BetterHelp can help you address your concerns and develop a plan to manage your anxiety and other emotions that may impact your leg shaking.

Online therapy at BetterHelp has many benefits. If you’re experiencing leg shaking due to anxiety, the thought of finding a qualified therapist on your own and then meeting face-to-face may be overwhelming. With online therapy, you can quickly match with a therapist and begin sessions from the comfort of home.

Plus, online therapy can be just as effective as in-person treatment, with one study demonstrating that people who participated in online counseling not only experienced a significant improvement in depression and anxiety scores after 12 weeks but that these results were also sustained for at least six months.

Counselor reviews

"Gillian was very helpful in helping me work through my anxiety and gave me a bunch of great tips and techniques to help manage stress."

"Ari has been great. I like his logical approach to things and he has been able to teach me tangible things I can use every day to manage my anxiety. He gives me the time to speak about what is bothering me and never passes any judgment. Instead, through his wisdom, he can show me different perspectives and approach them with me very gently. I really appreciate this. I would highly recommend him to anyone ready to get the help they need."


You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed about something you can't control. If anxiety contributes to your leg shaking, working with an online therapist can help you get to the root of the problem and/or find alternative coping mechanisms.
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