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.

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  1. Richard
    Cary NC

    What I’ve found that works for me is to wear fairly loose warm socks at night. Also read somewhere about putting a tsp of sea salt into half glass of warm water before retiring. Am doing both and having blessed relief all night long. Keeping fingers crossed also!

  2. Marc

    Going to try this soap thing, been having cramping issues in my ankles every night keeping me from sleeping. I have literally got to the point where I have been considering cutting off my own feet just so I can sleep like a normal human. Spent my whole life seen different doctors just to get a different diagnosis every time like restless leg syndrome, weak tendons, dehydration, lack of supplements….I tried everything and never once considered soap would work…lol…who would. Well can’t hurt to try, if not guess I will be buying myself a machete to hack these things off.

    • Marc

      Ya, the soap done nothing for me, figured it was too good to be true.

  3. Mary B.

    I have used this method for years. I shave soap (any brand will do) with a potato peeler at the advice of my daughter who has done research for years. I have been advised by others that the reason the relief comes is that it is magnesium that soap has in it. I have gotten relief for years with this, beats taking medicine on top of more medicine for this old timer drug. Amazing isn’t it.
    Mary B.

  4. Larryb

    I have suffered from fasciitis on and off for several years, finding relief only by pulling up on and stretching the toes, which helps but does not replace the lost sleep. Recently, when noticing early signs of the cramps (a tightening of the muscle) before going to bed, I have been putting a small piece of soap in my socks, resulting in an almost immediate sense of the foot relaxing, and more importantly, getting a full nights sleep unbothered by cramps.
    I’m 70+ years of age and not prone to superstitions, etc… but this method works for me and I’m sticking with it. The soap? Standard issue hotel soap brought home years ago. This indicates a long-lasting effectiveness of the soap…and at NO COST!!

  5. bv95954

    I too have cramps in feet while just standing still at a workbench, I took off that shoe and did the massage thing and stretch thing, ; drank Gatoraide added potassium pills etc . I cannot sleep well after complete shoulder replacement…. { ringing a bell yet? ]
    I have taken Hydroclorathiazide for 30 years for BP control [another clue]
    I should drink more water…. I am 72 years old [ clue]
    So, it all adds up to the age, use of diuretic, not enough water and supliments..
    So I rub vicks into feet, and put soap shavings in my socks, drink V8 juice, eat mustard and drink pickle juice….
    No more cramps………….. do not know what one worked but feet feel ok now cheerio. B.

  6. jmr126

    I’m willing to try the soap in the socks. My question I have cramps in all parts of my legs. Different spot each night. Does the soap go in the bottom of the sock or have to go at the sight of the cramp. Is there a soap lotion?
    People’s Pharmacy response: At least one reader found that putting glycerin on the legs before bed stopped nighttime cramps. That might be as close as you would get to a soap lotion.

  7. Bill

    I thought it was absolutely stupid, but I was desperate. I bought Ivory soap, cut off a chunk, put it in my socks…and slept all night. Absolutely amazing. If BIG PHARMA hears about this, there will be multi-million dollar medical studies that says that using soap for a good night sleep is bad for your health. Thanks again for the home remedy.

  8. Mary S.

    Last night I fell asleep in my chair with my legs crossed, When I woke up I had the worse ankle cramps I have ever had. I thought my foot was going to bend into its self.
    I hobbled to the Bathroom and tried to use the Hair dryer to heat my foot. It wasn’t fast enuff. I thought I was going to loose my foot. So I took a bar of soap put it in a sock Almost immediately my foot clicking back to normal. I was able to walk normally. I slept with the soap in a sock all night with out a problem this morning my leg is sore from the stress of the cramps. But I will use the soap again if need be.

  9. Darlene

    I have really bad cramps in my feet and calf. I was googling and came across your site. I just got back from walmart and I will let you know if it works for me. I have to jump out the bed because it hurts so BADD.

  10. Carol B

    OK, I decided this was the stupidest idea I had heard in awhile. After trying quinine water, eating lots of bananas (for extra potassium) and anything else I had heard about, I was ready for stupid ideas. The pain was awful in my feet, so why not? I found a small soap chip to put in each sock at night. So far the results have been magical. I’m now a believer. Thank you guys.
    we agree Carol, it does seem like a strange idea. Nevertheless, we have heard from a surprising number of people that soap chips in socks can really ease discomfort. We even created The People’s Pharmacy Leg Soap to make it easier for people to have pre-cut small soap chips to put in socks. Here is a link so you can see what they look like:
    If you try it, please let us know what you think.

  11. Mary B

    I have had TERRIBLE FOOT CRAMPS TONIGHT AND IN THE PAST, been in bed since 9:00 p.m. It’s now 1:33 a.m. my left foot has done nothing but cramp since I went to bed. I have tried everything from pickle juice, to vinegar, I am going to try this rubbing the foot with a bar of soap hoping I have found the right thing. Slept with a bar of Ivory soap in the wrapper before but it didn’t work. Are you supposed to leave on the wrapper?
    Pickle and vinegar juice doesn’t work for me. I just got up and took a 650/10 mg of Endocet for other pain issues I have maybe it will help here as well, didn’t in the past but with the vinegar, pickle juice/and Endocet it will. I have fibro and chronic pain, unknown if this is the cause or not, but will ask my Internal Meds Dr. in a couple of weeks. I have artificial replacement bones from the bone bank for my right wrist they didn’t have enough bones in the bone bank for my left wrist so used my elna bone from left arm for my left wrist.
    I need a left elbow replacement as it keeps locking up on me at times. He needed more bones but took the tendon from my 2nd toe left foot from toe to ankle to hold the left hand bones and tendons in place, also used some of the tendons in my right thumb. My Ortho Surgeon has moved from my town to Montana, I have been told he was one of the best for hands and upper extremities. He also had to due the ulna/elna nerve release in both elbows/plus carpal tunnel all at the same time.
    I was in cast both hands from fingertips to shoulders for almost 5 1/2 years. I have very little movement in both wrists, I experience horrible pain in both arms. I am 75 years old, maybe all this pain is my age LOL. I am not to push/lift over 5 lbs. with my hands when I overdue I really suffer from my actions. The hard thing to do is the
    sweeper. I have been to many Ortho Doctors all across the United States and they just send me back to him, no-one wants to interfere with these hands and arms of mine. Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa, #1 Ortho Hand/upper extremities in Boulder, Co. also several top leading hospitals out East, and Florida to name a few.
    I am now wondering if this cramping in my left foot is from the removal of the tendon,
    however my right foot and both legs will cramp at times. Any ideas would certainly be appreciated, do you think it would be helpful if I donated my body to research so as to help others who might someday have the same problem? I have donated all organs and bones or whatever they want, or should I just go the full route??? Thanks for reading I don’t like complainers but do sometimes need to vent.

  12. Mary

    My husband and I get severe leg and foot cramps a lot. However, I’m a little confused. Should the soap be taken out of the wrapper? Also, some say put the soap under the bottom sheet and others say put it in the bed with you. Which is correct. Thanks for your help!

  13. steve

    I have restless leg syndrome. annoying but not life threatening. I read somewhere that taking a teaspoon of yellow mustard helps with cramps. so I tried it and my legs seemed to settle down. they say it’s due to the tumeric in the mustard. so I bought a bottle of tumeric extract. Curcumin 500 mg. 1 a day. that was 6 weeks ago, and 6 weeks free of the restless leg syndrome.

  14. Rocket Scientist

    I am on a trip so do not have soap in the bed. When I got a bad foot cramp last night, I just rubbed it with a damp bar of soap. My foot relaxed, and the cramp didn’t return.

  15. Barbara P.

    I have used this method of putting soap under my sheet for years and I can vouch for the fact that it definately works. If I get a little feeling that it may happen again I just rub the bottom of my foot on the bar of soap that is always under my feet and it works immediately.

  16. JN

    When my Daughter was pregnant she would get leg cramps in her last trimester. She put a bar of soap under her bottom sheet and that kept the cramps away. One night in her last week of pregnancy I saw what I thought was powder on the hall carpet. Upon asking her what it was she said it was from the soap shavings that she had in her support hose. She said she wouldn’t be without it as it kept the leg cramps away even during the daytime.
    For several years my husband and I have had two bars of ivory soap under our bed sheet. We both have had Plantar Fasciitis and we think doing this will keep any future Plantar Faciitis away.
    Our very good friend had leg cramps every night for many years. When he heard about the soap idea he started doing it. It has been about two years and not one cramp!

  17. Leo R. G.

    I am the guy that made sackets of shruded ivory soap under her sheets, woked so well she decided to stuff some of them into her socks for daily wear! sure ! it works, how? who cares!!!!!!!
    Thanks for the follow-up Leo. By the way, we have tried to make this really easy for folks. We created People’s Pharmacy Leg Soap for precisely this reason. We have small soap chips packaged for stuffing in socks…no soap shaving necessary.
    Here is a link to both People’s Pharmacy Leg Soap and People’s Pharmacy Bed Soap.

  18. Sophia R.

    Leg cramps can sometimes be caused by dehydration. Be sure to drink enough water.

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