bars of soap

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.

Scientist Compares Home Remedies to Magic

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 can’t see how it would hurt.'”

We can’t pretend that putting  soap under the sheet is anything more than a folk remedy. We can’t explain exactly how the soap remedy would work, and we don’t know for sure that it does. Nonetheless, we have been impressed with readers reporting success.

Readers Share Their Soap Remedy Stories

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. There have been some attempts to explain how the soap remedy works for leg cramps:

How Does Soap Soothe Cramps?

More Scientific Support for Soap Against Cramps

How Soap in the Bed Eases Leg Cramps-A Hypothesis

Anyone who is fascinated by such oddball remedies may be interested in our book, Best Choices From The People’s Pharmacy (Rodale Books).

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 prove that the soap remedy works or explain the exact mechanism, but doctors can’t always explain how many prescription drugs work, either.

If you find simple health remedies of interest, take a moment to check out our various books. And please share your own experience with soap or other home remedies below. Please vote on this article at the top of the page.

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  1. Elaine

    My Mom has bar soap under the sheet for years for Charlie Horses…..I put one in my bed approximately 7 years now and no leg cramps for me either. It’s still the same bar after all these years. It just works!

  2. Pat

    It worked for me for leg cramp. Two days later, gave a bar of soap to friend, he put down side of sock for rest of day-no pain…. he slept w/ his socks on. no pain..

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