Q. If I work hard in the hot sun for a couple of hours I get serious muscle cramps. Last week I worked for nine hours at 90 plus degrees scraping, sanding, caulking and painting my house.

Later I had dreadful cramps in my back muscles, feet, hands and legs. My usual remedies (drinking hot mint tea, soaking in a hot tub) didn’t work. I took a walk, but the cramps returned as soon as I sat down.

A friend told me to drink pickle juice. The cramps ceased after a tablespoonful. 
I have no idea how it works. It just does.

A. Many other readers have found that sipping pickle juice can get rid of muscle cramps quickly. It may be the sodium or the vinegar or some other unidentified ingredient. There’s even some research to support this remedy (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, May, 2010).

Another option is yellow mustard. One reader, a landscaper, offered this testimonial: “I keep mustard packets in my glove compartment, my emergency kit for disaster preparedness and two places in my home. They work for the kind of muscle cramps that come on over a period of hours. I have a very physically demanding occupation that causes me to sweat a lot. I imagine the imbalance in electrolytes has something to do with the muscle cramps. Swallowing a packet of mustard works fast.”

If you are interested in other home remedies for muscle cramps and similar hot-weather ailments, we suggest our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies.

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  1. Suzanne

    A few times a year, after I’ve overdone it in the gym, I’m awakened at night with very bad cramped thigh muscles. A friend had mentioned eating mustard as a remedy. I tried it, not expecting much, and having nothing to lose. The relief is instant. Quite amazing. It works so quickly I don’t see how anything has had a chance to enter the bloodstream. It’s as though the taste itself cures the cramps.

  2. nh

    Could be helpful to family who have outside jobs BUT the weird letters/numbers never work for me. Why do we need them – it’s not like we’re trying to get in Fort Knox!!!!!

  3. J W

    I get feet/lower leg cramps in the middle of the night.
    Read about eating a spoonful of regular yellow prepared mustard.
    This helps me within a minute.
    Now I never travel without the little packages in my purse!
    Works faster than any other remedy I have tried!

  4. ta

    I am wondering if the salt in the pickle juice and the mustard is enhancing that lost by extra hard labor in the heat. Thus stopping any cramps that may ensue otherwise.

  5. ariel

    Yellow mustard works great.. cramp at movie.. pulled out my yellow mustard packet and it stopped.
    I have found Turmeric tablets help also.

  6. Brigid

    I have had muscle cramps on and off for the past dozen or so years. (I am in my seventies.) Mine would usually come about half-way through the night and were generally in the calf or foot. Several years back I tried the soap under the sheet cure and it worked for quite a while. Then less so, even when I scraped the soap.
    After that I discovered magnesium and have been taking about 6 milligrams of that at night. That worked for a year, and now they are back. So last night I took “foaming soap” and let it dry on my legs. Finally a full night of sleep! (I’ll buy some pickles just to have the juice on hand…) It does take a village!…

  7. Margaret

    My husband is an athlete and when he has a very hard work-out or is exercising in the heat he will take a small amount of salt afterwards. Of course he keeps hydrated with water and a sports drink during the workout, but he needs additional salt… about the amount that comes in the little packets you get at fast food places. If he doesn’t do this he has terrible cramps in his feet and legs. It’s much easier to carry around a packet of salt than mustard or pickle juice.

  8. L.K.

    I have been successfully using 2 methods from the home remedies on this website for leg muscle night cramps:
    1. I ingest one tablespoon of yellow mustard prior to getting into bed at night and I rinse my mouth thoroughly to get the vinegar off of my teeth. Since starting this method, I have been able to sleep through the night.
    2. Next to my calves, I keep 3 bars of soap in a nylon knee high stocking. If I feel the slightest impression of an oncoming cramp, which is now rare since starting the mustard, I just move my leg to touch the soap and the beginning of a cramp and it instantly abates. I had very successfully been using the soap ”method” for about a year, but my cramps have become more severe and now the mustard is doing the job 99% of the time. The soap still picks up the rare 1%.

  9. cpmt

    I think yellow mustard also may work. vinegar+turmeric ?

  10. Carolyn

    My husband has been suffering from severe cramps for several months, even before the weather got so hot. Mustard does help to alleviate the cramps but he was having to get up in the night to take it. About a week ago he was working outside and I started pushing the water on him. He has found out that if he drinks at least 4 bottles of water a day he doesn’t have the cramps in the evening and night.
    Before he always said he drank water when he is thirsty. Now he makes it a point to drink it. Two days ago was a social day and he didn’t drink any. That night he suffered the cramps. We are both relieved to find a solution.

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