Sometimes a remedy defies logic. Usually there’s no science to support it either. That’s has been the case when it comes to putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet to stop leg cramps or restless legs.
One reader (who happens to have doctorates in biomedical engineering and physics) took us to task for suggesting this remedy. He asked, “What is the mechanism of action for a bar of soap under your sheets for relieving any type of pain? Answering that this is anything but an old wives’ tale discredits everything you have done in the name of science.
“As a fellow scientist and university faculty member, I feel it is your responsibility to educate your readers using accepted scientific principles. When you do not, you are performing a disservice to the rest of us.
“What’s next? ‘We have heard from many readers that it helps to have a leprechaun in your pocket when looking for gold at the end of the rainbow, and we cant see how it would hurt.'”
We can’t pretend that soap under the sheet is anything more than a folk remedy. We can’t explain exactly how it would work, and we don’t know for sure that it does. Nonetheless, we have been impressed with readers reporting success.
One wrote: “I’ve been a long-time sufferer of sciatica. Recently, I was diagnosed with degenerative joint disease resulting in tarsal tunnel syndrome in my left foot. The pain was nearly unbearable. After your column on the soap mystery, I could not believe it but I thought I have little to lose.
“I keep the bar of soap underneath my sheets all the time. It’s been over a month, and I’ve been noticing much less pain and more energy. I shared the article with a co-worker who also is benefiting. Her sister, a nurse, is puzzled by this.”
Their training may predispose nurses to be cautious: “Being a nurse, I was VERY skeptical about the soap remedy. Statin medicines give me leg cramps. I decided the bar of soap could do no harm. It worked the very first night and has continued to work for the past three months. I can’t figure out how it can possibly help, but it does.”
Another reader found a bar of soap more helpful than prescription pain relievers: “I had an unsuccessful replacement of my right knee 18 months ago and my left thigh suffers from meralgia paresthetica (thigh nerve pain).
“The bar of soap works wonders. The pain in both legs almost disappears when I go to bed. I tried to do without soap one night and after about 30 minutes of tossing and turning I put the bar back under the sheet to relieve the pain.
“I have to replace the soap about every two months to stay pain free. I said good-bye to Celebrex and Mobic, which were not easing the pain.”
Leg cramps can be extremely painful and there are no drugs approved to treat them.
We have received some fascinating suggestions about possible explanations for the soap remedy. If you would like to read more, Here is a link to: “How Soap In The Bed Eases Leg Cramps–A Hypothesis.”
If you would like to read “The Best Soap Story Ever,” click on this link.
And if you would like to know which soap cuts cramps best, here is the answer.
Anyone who is fascinated by such oddball remedies may be interested in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remdies (from National Geographic).
Our rule of thumb with such remedies is, if they won’t hurt and might help and are inexpensive, why not give them a try? We can’t explain the soap remedy, but doctors can’t explain how many prescription drugs work, either.
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