When patients suffer leg cramps that wake them up at night doctors have nothing in their black bag to offer. Long ago doctors used to prescribe quinine and many patients found it quite helpful. Ever since the FDA banned quinine for this purpose, however, doctors are at a loss to solve this problem.
People have come up with some astonishing remedies to ease their discomfort. Some tell us that a spoonful of yellow mustard or a swig of pickle juice stops a muscle cramp in its tracks.
Other people focus on prevention. One of the most popular and mysterious remedies for this purpose is soap under the bottom sheet:
“I suffered almost nightly from horrible, debilitating leg cramps. I often would get less than two hours of sleep a night, night after night. I was miserable.
“I tried exercise, stretching, warm baths, drinking sport drinks and a reduced salt diet. Nothing worked.
“I read about the use of soap in the bed and didn’t believe it. I work in a medical profession at a hospital and have a significant amount of training in neuroanatomy and physiology. There is no reason for the soap to work. But it does.
“About three years ago, in utter desperation, I tried a bar of Ivory soap under my bottom sheet, about knee level. No cramps! About three weeks later, I woke up one night with cramps in my feet and lower legs. I got up to check on my bar of soap and found I had pushed it off the mattress in my sleep. I put it back under the sheet, and three years later, I’m still using soap every night.
“During these last three years, I have had a few nights when the cramps returned. I checked to see if I had kicked the soap off of the mattress again. Finding that it was still there, I simply replaced it with a new, fresh bar, and the cramps went away immediately. I don’t know how or why the soap works, but it does. My wife says it is simply the power of suggestion. Maybe that’s true, but I don’t care. It works for me and that’s enough.”
Many people who try the soap remedy seem to get benefit, but it does not work for everyone. We have collected many other remedies that people use for cramps in our Guide to Leg Pain.
We received another testimonial from a health care provider: “I work 12 hour shifts in a nursing home. My legs and feet used to cramp up so badly at night I never got any sleep.
“A nurse at work told me about to try soap. I put it under my bottom sheet last night and slept like a baby. I had no pain!
“I now have put soap shavings in my socks and shoes. It’s unbelievable how well it works against cramps. Skeptics should at least try it before dismissing it out of hand.”
Doctors like explanations for how things work, and so do we. This is one remedy we can’t explain, but it seems to be a simple and inexpensive solution to a vexing problem.