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How Does Mustard Relieve Cramps?

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Q. I've read about people using yellow mustard to get rid of leg cramps, and my theory is that the cure is walking to the kitchen. Stretching the cramp out relieves it within a minute or two.

To test the yellow mustard, try it without getting out of bed. Keep a small jar at bedside and see if a spoonful taken lying down does the trick.

A. We understand your skepticism, since we do not know how yellow mustard might alleviate muscle cramps. Some have suggested it is the vinegar in the mustard, since people have also reported benefit from pickle juice. Others believe that the turmeric that makes mustard yellow is responsible, since it has anti-inflammatory activity.

One reader took up your challenge: "Although I do need to stand up when the worst cramps hit, walking to the kitchen to get the mustard is not what relieves the cramps for me. I keep little packets of mustard next to my bed. If I'm bothered in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf, I open three packets of mustard and swallow them down. Within minutes, the cramps ease off."

For other leg cramp remedies, including a description of calf stretches to be done before bed, we offer our Guide to Leg Pain.

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A young man was doing some carpentry for me. His back started to go into a muscle spasm. I had him swallow a tablespoon of yellow mustard and a sip of water to wash it down. Within about 2 minutes he looked up at me and grinned and said, "I don't believe this. Normally I am laid up for hours with this kind of muscle cramp." So it definitely isn't the exercise to the muscle. He stood perfectly still. He was afraid to move. ~ C

I, also, keep packets of yellow mustard in my night stand---The kind you can pick up at any fast food restaurant---and yes, they do relieve leg cramps immediately---so whoever it was that said, "just walking to the kitchen to get the mustard will relieve the cramps'---has not tried the mustard packets in the night stand remedy yet!!!

In another situation, I was told that drinking an ounce of apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning will relieve the need for anti-acids like Prevacid, or Omeprazole
Any comments on that?

Just a walk to the fridge doesn't help me. I've tried walking all around the house to relive the cramps, but that doesn't help. I only use the mustard when the cramps are so bad that even soap under the sheet doesn't work. Don't know why but mustard works like a charm.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I take 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric every evening. If I fail, after about two nights, I get severe leg cramps.

Mustard has magnesium, which relaxes muscles.

I have SUFFERED with leg cramps, charlie horses and now some other brutal cramp from the knee up toward my hip which occurs approx. two hours after going to sleep as the blood pools in my legs. This has gone on for 45 years. I have nine children and I have never had one solid week without dragging out of bed nightly and collasping to the floor with tight leg cramps - some lasting ten-fifteen minutes. I cannot stand and messaging vigorously is useless. Ever since reading the mustard 'remedy', I tried it. Soap under the mattress is useless for me. I take the yellow mustard (one tsp.) just before going to bed. For the first time in 45 years, I have had one solid week without one cramp!! Cheers!!!!!

I agree with the theory that stretching out the muscles by getting up and/or walking a few steps is what relieves leg cramps rather than taking yellow mustard and this has been my theory also. This makes more sense to me and that is what I do.

Wonderful if mustard relieves leg cramps. However, how about looking for possible causes and getting at those instead? One I think of right off the bat is statins; they are infamous for that. If you are on statins and you are getting leg cramps, especially at night, this is a sign that muscle damage is going on - and if muscle damage is occurring, something even worse that you don't know about may be happening or on the way.

Statins are wonderfully effective in combatting inflammation and they have other side effects as well that are beneficial, but they have a dark side. Meanwhile, consider this: cholesterol is essential to life, and some people need more than others. No way to determine how much, either; so much for the cookie cutter approach to medicine.

I would like to hear some more about this & any other remedies that people have used-- as I to suffer from occasional leg cramps.

I have had problems with leg cramps and restless legs for many years. I have tried several things and have found vitamin B-12 Sublingual Dots to be the best cure for both cramps and restless legs. I usually place 4 or 5 500 mcg dots under my tongue and have relief before the dots completely dissolve. I also use organic raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (Bragg brand) for acid reflux.

Once my husband started a daily regimen of potassium and magnesium his leg cramps disappeared.

Regarding your article in the Los Angeles Times on Monday about leg cramps and yellow mustard, you might want to mention that sometimes leg cramps are caused by taking any of the Statin drugs.

My five year old son has been suffering "growing pains" on and off for 2 years, according to our doctor. He rarely wakes from them during the night since I started placing a bar of soap under his fitted sheet (2 years, and he still doesn't know), but he still has leg pain in the evenings if he's been more active than usual that day. A shot glass of pickle juice or tablespoon of mustard relieves his leg pain within minutes every time.

My 4 year old daughter has started suffering the same type of pain in the evenings after "gym days" at school this year, and the same remedy works for her, too. When I recently told our doctor she wasn't surprised, and also credited the vinegar.

In the last 3 months, I started to get painful upper leg cramps. I am 59, and had never had them before. My chiropractor suggested taking magnesium and it works! When I forget to take it, I get leg cramps. None when I take it. The magnesium I take is a supplement powder that you mix with water. It works.

During a visit to an amusement park in Pennsylvania last fall I encountered severe leg cramps while walking around the park. This happened several times during the day and each time I got a little cup of mustard from a food vendor and swallowed it and washed it down with water. The cramps were gone within seconds and I enjoyed the time at the park with the grand kids.

I have found that eating black pepper will cause me to have nocturnal leg cramps. The more black pepper eaten, the worse the leg cramp. Happens within 48 hours of ingestion. The leg cramp usually happens the night I eat the black pepper, but sometimes it is the second night after eating.

I suffer with leg and feet cramps also. The problem started about 6 or 7 years ago after walking the dog. I got a cramp so bad, in my thigh, it left a bruise. When eat bananas as a snack at night, I get cramps. I have tried Magnesium supplements and that has worked very well. However, I have heard that you need a balance of Mag and Potassium, so I have started taking a combo of Mag, Potassium and D.

I had cramps in my feet last night. The cold floor didn't help, nor did the walk to the kitchen. I think I forgot to take my daily supplement that morning. I had taken one before bed but apparently I didn't have enough in my system to ward off the cramps. Nevertheless, I went to the kitchen and found a packet of mustard in my lunchbag. The painful cramp left in minutes and I was able to sleep! I have also swigged vinegar for relief as well. Apparently, there are underlying health problems that lead to this malady. I hear it has to do with the kidneys. I swear by magnesium, vinegar and mustard for relief.

I used to run track in high school and the coach used to have us keep a couple of packs of mustard in our gym bags. You know, just in case we got a leg cramp. But this remedy came in great use when I got pregnant. Before giving birth I would have some of the worst Charlie Horse cramps in the world. One was so bad I didn't even bother to get a spoon, I just turned up the mustard bottle and squeezed. lol!! I'm not gonna say its the best tasting thing in the world, but to kill that kind of pain I would do anything! In the famous words of my coach "Just eat the mustard!!" =)

I walked all around the house for about 10 minutes last night with a cramp in my ankle that wouldn't quit. Then I remembered my sister telling me about mustard. I went to the refrigerator and got a dab of Grey Poupon that I put on my tongue. Within seconds the pain was gone and, best of all, it didn't come back.

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE: So glad the Grey Poupon worked! Usually we tell people to use the inexpensive yellow mustard because it has turmeric in it as well as mustard seed and vinegar.

Well I just had awful cramps in my big toe on both feet and the MOST awful cramp on inner thigh..walked doubled over to get yellow mustard, had a teaspoon of it and immediate relief was received..SOOO very thankful..I will get little packets and keep with me..

Occasionally I get cramps in my toes which are very painful and hard to walk or stretch out. Last night I had one that was extremely painful. Somehow I remembered the mustard and told my husband to get me a spoonful of yellow mustard. I swallowed it and began to feel relief almost immediately. In a few minutes the pain was gone. I am going to start collecting the packets so I can have some handy at all times.

I too was very skeptical but here it is at 3:30 a.m. and I was having severe leg muscle cramping. I remembered a friend telling me about the mustard remedy. I took only about 1 tsp and within 2 min the cramping eased. I went back for another because cramping didn't stop completely. I am now writing this comment almost pain free. AND THE BEST PART IS NO HARMFUL SIDE EFFECTS OF A PHYSICIAN PRESCRIBED Rx !!

My mother swears on this and keeps mustard packets in her swim bag every summer for those pesty pool cramps. I've always thought she was crazy until this morning. I've suffered all night from a charlie horse in my right calve and have tried every stretch and walk trick I know. So I thought what the heck and swallowed down a tsp of mustard. Leg feels great! With in minutes I could bend and flex it and not have to worry about another cramp!

My friend Jeanne insists that rubbing a quarter of a teaspoon of yellow mustard on each leg before bed has relieved her leg cramps. She was quite certain she heard about this remedy on this program. Do you think there is any merit in her theory?

PEOPLE'S PHARMACY RESPONSE:

We generally recommend a teaspoon of yellow mustard at the first sign of a leg cramps taken orally. Rubbing mustard on legs would be messy!

I have had problems all my life with calf leg cramps. I'm 69. They have gotten worse in the last 20 years. At my doctor's direction, I've taken Ripole but it doesn't really work. Now, my wife has mentioned mustard after seeing football players take it during a game. I'm skeptical though. When I have those cramps, they are very painful. I get out of bed and grab the wall and stand on my tippy toes. That cures them quickly. If I took mustard at the bedside, I would be in pain for a lot longer than I am when I get out of bed. That is my impression. However, not to be left out of something that so many people use to get rid of those cramps, I'm going to try it. I'll chime in with the results when I have them.

Trying this mustard theory for the first time. My calves have been bothering me the past 5 hrs of tightness stretching, drinking a lot of water. And still nothing. I feel I might have over massaged my calves and now there sore to the touch! I just took about 6 tbsp of mustard and let's see what's going to happen??? Praying it works!

I'm a professional singer. After a performance last night, when I took of my high heels, I got a huge cramp in my left leg just above my ankle. I'd never heard of this mustard thing, but the drummer had. He grabbed his mustard from his back. I took about a 3/4 tsp of it. The cramp was completely gone within 2-3 min. Amazing.

I have suffered terribly, over the past few years, with inner-thigh, night cramps. I would move wrong and then end up in excruciating pain for about 15 mins. to a hour trying to stretch out my legs, or if I could manage to stand I would walk throughout the house until they subsided. I read on this website about keeping mustard in my bedside drawer. I was extremely skeptic, but last night I got a cramp and the mustard worked in SECONDS... as I review the experience in my mind it seems unbelievable.

My husband was suffering with leg cramps, and no matter how I instructed him to reverse the position of his legs whenever he felt it happening, he would insist that he can't. He cried in pain, and nothing I could say or do would help.

I tried to tell him to take a spoon of mustard but he would not believe it would help. Until one time, it was really bad that it wouldn't go away. He was screaming, crying and cursing. So I yelled at him to please take the mustard. He finally did take the mustard, and within a couple minutes the pain disappeared.

Now, we have the mustard on his bedside, on his truck, and on his lunch box, just in case

By the way, a Chinese lady told me about the mustard cure for cramps.

Those that recommend WALKING to the kitchen have never had cramps like I have or they would know it's not possible to stand especially walk due to the tightness and severe pain. Thank you for the suggestion to try mustard.

I don't know the science behind the use of yellow mustard to relieve leg cramps but I do know that it works.

I recently had a a "charlie horse" or upper leg cramp that was so bad that I was in tears. Usually by putting some weight on the leg will help but in this situation I could not even straighten my leg.

I had heard of the mustard treatment from a friend so I asked my wife to get me a teaspoon full. Within second of taking the mustard the cramp had gone.

I have suffered from terrible leg cramps for years, usually after strenuous outdoor activity including heavy perspiration. My tennis playing teenager daughter once witnessed me in an inconsolable pain, and ran to the fridge for the bottle of yellow mustard. It's like a miracle, because all other attempts to subside the pain failed. I might add that I suffered both front and back cramps in my thighs. That left me in tears for hours. Thank god she had heard about this home remedy from a school coach, I will pass this simple cure to anyone who also suffers from this awful pain. My best guess is that I'm sweating out a vital chemical that bananas and Gatorade cannot replace quickly enough.

If you are skeptical of this, please give it a try. A spoon or two might change your mind. After all, it's just mustard what have you got to lose.

I can attest that Mustard truly works in relieving severe cramping. I happened to find out in an article on the internet just over a year ago. I was being treated at the time for Cancer and following treatments, I would have severe cramping in the legs, thighs, and hands to the point I would be screaming. Nothing else seemed to work so after reading about the benefits of using Yellow Mustard, I tried it during one of my severe episodes. After a little over a tablespoon, within 30 seconds the cramping had subsided. I am a believer because each and every time I used used the Mustard, the cramping stopped.

A TRUE BELIEVER

Heard about mustard for leg cramps 2 weeks ago -- and since then have taken a teaspoonful of mustard while cramping -- it took only a few seconds for the cramps to subside.....I could literally feel my muscles relaxing right after swallowing the mustard!! Amazing!!

The last incident happened tonite -- I could not straighten up without excrutiating pain until I swallowed the mustard. I still can hardly believe it!

I'm 64. this started for me over a year ago. Stretching is bs. I get them in my hands too. I am very active. Carpentry- art, music, hiking. Playing the guitar can bring them on in my hands. Just from holding a pick for a long time- anything like that. I think it comes from activity- even like cutting vegetables. I also think its a side effect of arthritis- or a complication thereof. Of course when it starts - I get up and walk. That stretches the muscle back from its contracted position- but that is a crap shoot & can be devastating when the cramp is EXTREME.

Don't make fun of people trying to find relief. YOU just haven't had it bad enough yet. It depends on the severity. But about 6- months ago I got 1 in my upper leg. Very severe. Damage was done -perhaps to the muscle. I feel like something was torn - not badly but now its chronic & not the way it was previously. I took a ton of magnesium & potassium, tried gallons of water, but it is what it is. I will try the mustard but the body wears out -we are what we are. I will try mustard but it just seems like this is a weaker form of other things & stronger drugs like say aleve which really don't help the way they do so well for an aching back after a day of backbreaking labor. I do use aspercreme & gold bond -afterwards- this seems to provide a little comfort.

I use Dial soap loose in the bed so I can move it around with my foot as needed. When that doesn't work at times, I try the yellow mustard on pretzels, because I don't like swallowing it alone. Lately, neither have worked all that well, so I bought some turmeric capsules at the drugstore. I take 4-5 a day and no more leg/foot cramps. I often need to alternate what I use when one thing doesn't work for whatever reason. The cider vinegar never worked at all for me.

My cardiac specialist suggested I try mustard for some all-too-frequent and severe cramps and along with a self-adjusted reduction in the simvastatin dosage from 80mg/day to a regimen of a 1/2 caplet ever other day, they no longer cause me to vault from bed to dance at 3AM.

The lowered simvastatin dosage was tried first after reading way too many reports of folks suffering from cramps from statins and that reduced the frequency of the cramps by ~3/4 and the mustard takes care of those which still occur.

Two friends who tried it also have had good results with mustard.

A friend of mine who is on dialysis, turned me on to this trick a few months ago. They use mustard for the patients who get cramps while on dialysis. Of course, they can't get up and walk while hooked up to those machines. I have been using mustard for my leg cramps ever since. And yes it works!!!

I have suffered from leg cramps intermittently throughout my career as a Chef...on my feet 14 hrs a day no time to actually eat right. I heard from a co-worker that mustard worked, was skeptical, but WOW!!!!! You can feel the tightness before you go to bed...& so I thought if it works during a cramp can it work pre-cramp? Totally did!!!! Sooooo happy! The tightness pre-cramp went away in less then mins!! I am a believer & will be keeping mustard in my nightstand from now on! Thank you home remedies!

Three things consistently give me serious leg cramps: (1) supplements or foods high in magnesium, (2) supplements or foods high in potassium, (3) sweets & fruits.
Salt, calcium supplements & avoiding sweets prevent &/or relieve leg cramps for me. Go figure. I must be a freak.

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