bars of soap

Q. Using soap for muscle cramps was the stupidest idea I’d heard in a long while. I tried drinking tonic water for the quinine, eating lots of bananas for the extra potassium and anything else I had heard about, but nothing worked. I was ready for stupid ideas. The pain was awful in my feet, so why not? I cut a small soap chip to put in each sock at night. So far the results have been magical. I’m now a believer.

A. No single remedy works for everyone who has muscle cramps, but soap chips in socks or under the bed sheet seem to help a lot of people. Anesthesiologist Yon Doo Ough, MD, placed crushed Ivory soap on a homemade skin patch over cramping muscles and found that the pain was relieved (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July, 2008).

Another peculiar remedy for muscle cramps that has found some scientific support is pickle juice. Scientists at North Dakota State University in Fargo had healthy young cyclists exercise to the point of fatigue and then induced toe cramps with electrical stimulation. A small amount of pickle juice alleviated the cramps within about half a minute (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2010).

To learn more about remedies for nighttime leg cramps, you may want to consult our Guide to Leg Pain.

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  1. Hank
    left coast

    Wrapped the soap in paper and put it under the mattress pad and that worked. So it’s not direct skin contact. Of course I haven’t done a double blind study here…

  2. Steve
    Fort worth

    Yellow mustard. Less than a teaspoon. I keep a few packets from fast food counters. Just squeeze it to the bottom, cut off a small bit of a top corner & have it on bedside table. When leg cramps happen, unusually about four am, I squeeze a small amount out the top between my teeth, and slowly savour, and swallow. If they are really severe, in calf & ankle , I half to get up, put weight on it as added treatment. Usually fixes for rest of the night. (Better than pickle juice, which also works, but tends to get spilt . . .)

  3. Bob
    West Coast

    I have had cramps for years I used to use hyland’s leg cramp pills they would stop the cramping the second I put the pills in my mouth I never had anything work so fast but now they don’t do anything, I used there leg cramp cream and it worked just as well as the pills but now it doesn’t seam to do much , I found magnesium oil worked within seconds but like ever thing that has worked it too stopped being of any help. So now I’m trying the soap and so far it seams to be working. I used it for two nights an had no cramps then I didn’t use it for two days an had terrible cramps, last night I put the soap back in the bed an had no cramps. I’v tried magnesium and potassium pills but that didn’t do anything to help.

  4. Faye h.

    I have had severe cramping all through my body muscles for years. I have found that about a tbsp. of vinegar gives me relief. Tastes awful but works for me.

  5. Alton O.

    Give soap a try, works for some and others maybe not.
    I had taken 6 Tylenol per day for over 10 years for shoulder pain, then 3 years ago my hip started hurting, then a knee. Ortho said some arthritis and some bursitis, and all needed to be replaced, I opted for pain control until the pain gets so bad I can’t control it anymore. About 1 year go I decided no more Tylenol and so ask for patches and gel’s to control pain, doctor obliged and these were successful then about 6 weeks ago after reading again and again in People’s pharmacy weekly news, I decided to give soap a try, now I’ve dropped the patches and gel’s and have more movement in better rotation in some joints, using only soap.
    Lots swear by the golden raisins and gin but never worked for me. We are all different and soap works for me. Give it a try, if it don’t work for you, then you can still use the soap. The way I see it you have nothing to loose by giving it a try.

  6. Ruth M.

    I have terrible pain in my hips that get unbearable at night even with over the counter pain meds. Would the soap help with this type of pain? Doctors have not been able to diagnose it, just maybe fibromyalgia, but that doesn’t help much.

  7. zqicvs

    I would like to know if anyone has a natural treatment for foot numbness dues to idiopathic neuropathy.

  8. Anna D. S.

    For muscle cramps, I found that Calcium tablets prevent them. I am lactose intolerant and avoided milk on vacations when I forgot my lactose pills. I found that carrying Tums and taking them on trips prevent the cramps.

  9. Les

    Has anyone ever tried this soap remedy for foot or leg neuropathy? If so, what were the results?

  10. bst

    I am a larger size woman, and I take CoQ10 200mg for my leg cramps and it has worked wonders for me. I used to wake up 2-3 times a night with leg cramps. I tried eating bananas and my doctor could not find any reason for the leg cramps. My mom saw the solution on tv and told me about it. My doctor now tells her other patients to try this.

  11. KS

    Placing a bed pillow under the knees stopped my severe leg cramps. As soon as I feel one coming on, I just grab the pillow and they’re gone. Worked for others, also.

  12. Sy

    I keep a small bottle of yellow mustard on my nightstand, along with a spoon. When leg cramps or foot cramps bother me I take a teaspoon of mustard. I don’t know how it works, maybe it just tastes so bad you forget the cramps! I have found that Hyland’s Leg Cramp Tablets work wonders. As long as I take them I don’t have any problems. They are Homeopathic and do not interfere with other medications. As long as I take the tablets, I don’t need the mustard, but I just keep it to be super safe.

  13. John

    Muscle cramps means your deficient in magnesium. Epsom salts is good. I’ve heard magnesium chloride is better. I take magnesium malate because malic acid is good for the heart. But magnesium chloride helps the stomach with hydrochloric acid.

  14. alan

    re: pickle juice remedy:
    a – internally applied; and
    b – does sauerkraut juice work, too?
    I don’t have cramps very often, but when I do, they’re duesies. So far, yellow mustard and/or pickle juice, but we don’t do pickles very often except for middle eastern style. but we do a LOT of sauerkraut!

  15. Meg

    I was diagnosed with transverse myelopathy this past year and one of the lingering effects has been waking up with extremely painful calf cramps in spite of taking 600 mg of magnesium every night… I’ve been reading about folks putting a bar of soap under their bedsheets for relief of cramps and decided to try it since my neurologist has not offered any suggestions. I put a bar of scented bath soap under my sheets at the foot of my bed about 2 mos ago, and have not had a leg cramp since! Thank you for gathering and sharing this kind of useful information. Just count me as another believer.

  16. RM

    Tying 100% wool yarn around your ankles helps get rid of horrible cramps in your legs. I used to wake up with terrible cramps in my calves, but since using the yarn, they are gone.

  17. RM

    I rub the soap right on my legs at night. It really does the trick.

  18. Mary N

    AMP – If you click on the reference about pickle juice, it says the subjects “ingested” it – so I guess that means drinking!

  19. DS

    I used to have problems with muscle cramps at night. I never tried the soap cure as it sounded far fetched. When I would get a cramp in the middle of the night I would go to the fridge and eat a teaspoonful of mustard (I found any mustard would work). The best solution to cramps is proper hydration. I am amazed that the medical profession didn’t latch on to this solution many years ago. It is so simple and it works, I haven’t had any leg cramps in over two years because I stay properly hydrated.
    Proper hydration isn’t drinking ice cold water when you have been working out in the hot sun or just plain working out. To properly hydrate means getting the water IN your system not how cold it is and you can drink much more water at the temperature that it comes out of the tap than when it is ice cold.

  20. AMP

    You mentioned pickle juice for muscle cramps. Do you drink it or apply it?

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