woman holding pickles

Most people have heard of leg cramps. They can strike in the middle of the night. Some people call a leg cramp a Charley Horse. But hand cramps can be just as painful and debilitating. This reader shares a “cure” for both hand cramps and leg cramps that could be in your kitchen cupbard.

Q. I suffer from extreme leg cramps as well as debilitating hand cramps. One ounce of pickle juice totally eliminates these cramps in about a minute.

I keep a large jar of dill pickles in the fridge and always have a spare jar in the cupboard. I have used this remedy for 10 to 15 years and it has never failed to ease muscle cramps. The speed of the cure is fantastic.

A. We don’t know whether it’s the sodium or some other ingredient in pickle juice, but many readers also report similar success.

Hand Cramps Are More Common Than You Might Think:

Pickles for Hand Cramps or Tingling:

One reader offered this for his hands:

“I work on a computer all day and my workspace is far from ergonomic. For months I have been waking up with tingling or “asleep” hands.

“The past few nights, I’ve had pickles and pickle juice with dinner on the advice of my boyfriend. On those nights, I’ve had no tingling at all!

“I love pickles, and hope this keeps working. I have seen pickles recommended for muscle cramps and would like to suggest another kind of relief for those of us who aren’t star athletes.”

Joanne says:

“I have tried both sweet and dill pickles. I take a rather high dose of Lasix (furosemide) which never fails to cause widespread cramping; cramping in my toes, feet, legs, up into my groin, in my abdomen, back, arms, shoulders, everywhere. I take potassium and magnesium, which help, but not when I’m cramped up.

“Both sweet and the dill worked great, and very close to instantly.

“For those of us who have to have low sodium, this takes a bit of work. Google low sodium pickle mix, then scroll till you find a result linked to a site called ‘pick your own.’ They have a low sodium pickle recipe, which will even make sweet pickles with stevia, for sugar free sweet pickles.”

Debbie offers this experience:

“I tried dill pickle juice for leg cramps because I stand all day on my feet at work. Believe me dill pickle juice is great!”

Soap for Hand Cramps:

One of the more unusual remedies for hand cramps involves holding a bar of soap. Here are some pretty compelling testimonials:

“Just two hours ago, I had awful hand cramps that make the bones feel as if they are piling up in a heap on my hand. I’ve never found anything that would relieve them.

“Not believing holding a bar of soap in my hand would work, but being desperate, I tried this soap-thing remedy. Lo and behold it actually worked–almost instantly! I will never doubt the soap trick for cramps again.”

Joe offers this report:

“I got a cramp in my right hand . I just tried the hand soap. It worked in one min. If it’s not the smell then why would soap under the sheets work for leg cramps?”

Lung-doctor Frank surprised us with this story:

“My wife has also experienced hand cramps relieved by holding a bar of soap. Bed soap prevents her night-time leg cramps. It also helps my mother’s leg cramps upon getting up in the morning, as well as her night-time neck cramps. They resolved with bed soap at night. Many people find a pinch of salt, licked off their hand, promptly (amazingly quickly!) resolves these cramps as well, but soap is safe for those who are on a low-salt diet.”

The Rev E.J. shared her husband’s experience:

“It was 1:15 a.m. and my husband woke up with a severe hand cramp. I typed hand cramping into my computer and it led me to this website. It is now 1:23 a.m. and about 4 minutes ago, he said that the soap seemed to be working. Well, he is holding on tight to the bar of Ivory soap. I previously heard of placing soap on the bed for leg pain, but never for hand cramps. It works!

“OK, he is asleep now with the bar of soap clutched in his hand. Great advice, great home remedy!”

More Home Remedies?

If you love this kind of information you may wish to consult our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies from The People’s Pharmacy. It is filled with hundreds of simple suggestions and stories about success with things you have in the kitchen cupboard or bathroom. And if you would like to learn more about soap for cramps, we have both Bed Soap and Leg soap to entertain you.

Share your own cramp story below in the comment section and please vote on this article at the top of the page.

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  1. Rhianon

    Wow, that’s cool; I’ll have to try this the next time I have cramps! I end up saving my Bubbies brine anyways for recipes, so I generally tend to have some juice on hand. I wonder if it makes a difference if the juice is from fermented pickles rather than vinegar pickled pickles?

  2. Clay
    Washington state

    I had pretty severe nighttime leg cramps for a few years now. After trying many possible remedies it seemed that dehydration was the main problem. When I started drinking more water before bedtime that helped. But I would still get some leg cramps at night. So I also would drink water several times during the night especially when a cramp started. Sometimes they were so bad that I worried they would break my leg! And then one night they were absolutely terrible and drinking a quart of water didn’t help!

    I had read about electrolytes and that only salt deficiency might cause them. But extra dietary salt didn’t help. I also read that muscles needed glucose but a banana before bed nor a baked potato helped. But the last time proved to me that also a lot of water didn’t even always help. So I went back to the glucose theory and tried about a 1/2 teaspoon of raw honey before bed. No leg cramps that night. And none since them. So I realized that for me I had been on an increasingly low-carb, high fat ketonic diet but my muscles still needed some high quality glucose. The raw honey has worked like magic and I’ve had NO muscle cramps since using it. Of all the supplements and dietary things I’ve tried over the years this has been the most thoroughly powerful for solving a severe health issue for me.

  3. Deborah
    Richmond VA

    I am my mother’s caregiver. She is 85 years old and suffers from leg cramps. We read the article about using pickle juice, but the article did not make clear just how much pickle juice should be ingested. Are we talking a teaspoon or a cup? Thanks for this suggestion.
    Deborah B.

  4. Rosemary
    Tucson, AZ

    My mother and I share the wonderful problem of night time leg cramps that wake me up and feel like my muscled are being torn apart. I’ve even had them in my thigh, that almost took me down in the middle of a store, when I didn’t stay hydrated with water with added electrolytes like “Smartwater” which has saved me. But if I don’t get it early enough, and get leg cramps, I do what my mother did, and drink a glass or bottle of Tonic water with quinine. I add some lime juice to make it more palatable. Within a minute the cramps stop and don’t come back. I have read that this is not supposed to work. LOL… well, maybe not for everyone, but it does for me! There could be interactions with medicines, so check with your doctor or read about quinine in tonic water if you are concerned.

  5. Fred
    West Babylon NY

    I have tried the remedies with pickle juice, and they work, but when the cramps start, sometimes if the cramps are severe, it is very difficult to get out of bed. I try to have a banana every day, and most of the time it keeps me from having them. But when I do get them, they are so bad I cannot get out of bed.

    I used to use a hot water bottle to put on the area with the cramp, and it goes away and usually does not return that night. I found at a flea market a vendor was selling these packs that you press a button inside of and it makes the ingredients inside get very warm. I apply this pack to the area. Within 10-15 mins, the cramps are gone, and I keep the pack on my headboard so it is very convenient. I purchased 2 large ones for my legs, and 2 small ones for my hands. They do get very hard but last about 1-2 hours. They are great. And to rejuvenate them, you put them in a pot of boiling water for about 15-20 mins. And when they cool down, they are ready to be used again. You can use them over and over again.

  6. Cindy M. Black
    Seattle, WA

    After being relatively cramp-free for several months, I started getting a terrible cramp in my left ankle, right around 3am every night. At first I figured it must be due to my having broken the ankle 3 months ago. THEN I remembered that the soap should be refreshed. So I took the little pieces of soap from under my sheets and WASHED them! This is real easy to do, since the soap has soap built right in, haha. Well, voila, not one more cramp since then. Washing the soap really works!

  7. Patty

    I use two oral homeopathics in pill form when I first feel the possible threat of a leg cramp. Natra-Bio Leg Cramp and Hyland’s Leg Cramp. Both may or may not be be available locally, but are available at many places online. When a leg cramp seems imminent, I drink one cup of tonic water. The quinine in it can stop leg cramps before they happen. Tonic water comes in a sugar free version at my local grocery store. Quinine is quite bitter (I add artificial sweetener), but a far better inconvenience than a muscle locked up for hours. Before I discovered these remedies, I could have a severe leg cramp last two hours. the only solution we had back then was for my husband to “karate chop” the rock hard muscle in my calf two to three times. I don’t recommend it. Our then chiropractor showed us how. Pretty barbaric, but worked in an emergency. I was always extremely sore the next day.

    I agree that the number one cause of cramps is dehydration. The soap thing makes me wonder if the smell somehow triggers the brain to do something that stops the cramps. Sounds like an old wive’s tale when people atlk about just putting it in the bed, but if it works, it works.

  8. David

    My LEG CRAMP incidences highly correlate to dehydration. In hot weather and moderate effort activities, it is difficult for me to stay adequately hydrated, even while drinking large volumes of water with frequent restroom visits. But the water reduces the severity. It takes overnight, waking and drinking several times to catch up to rehydration.

    HAND CRAMPs were my routine cold weather experience. When visiting my aged mother, whose hands were very distorted from OA, I asked her physical therapist what I might do to avoid growing into mom’s hand condition. He demonstrated a folded hands exercise, pushing down one resisting thumb with the other and then against that resistance pushing back up. For a count of ten, or so. Repeat, alternating thumb on top. This is a part of my regular exercises. Amazing result: only one hand cramp experience in a year! Miraculous.

  9. Molly C.

    For countless years like my mother before me, I endured night leg cramps waking me from a sound sleep over & over. I paced endlessly to end the pain. My daughter suggested increasing my water intake and I faithfully consumed the eight glasses or more daily and a lifetime of misery ended.

  10. rick

    Proper re-hydration eliminated my cramps and that does not mean with caffeine a diuretic!!

  11. Stephanie

    I hear Magnesium helps with cramping as well as many other issues.

    • Patty

      Yes, it does, but if you are suffering from an electrolyte imbalance, that may worsen the situation, especially if you take too much magnesium. Magnesium can cause diarrhea, worsening dehydration. One must try small doses.

      Sometimes I find that the potassium in one banana can do the trick. I noticed after not eating my usual daily banana for a few days, I tended toward leg cramps. Once I add it back, no more cramps, but that may have been coincidental.

  12. Carolyn
    South Carolina

    I found that apple cider vinegar with the mother works well for hand and leg cramps as well. It can be swallowed straight (2 Tbs to 1 Oz) or mixed with 6-8 Oz of water.

  13. mariane

    I began having thigh muscle cramps in the year 2000. I had just finished by x =ray treatments following a hysterectomy and did not realize what was happening re the cramps, causing me to lose bladder control, so , blamed this new problem on the X-RAY Rx.. Friends advised the pickle juice and or mustard (tbsp) routine and since I have developed peripheral vascular disease and Raynaud’s, my doctor has prescribed b.p medication to dilate my blood vessels and that has aided in the severity of my thighs and hand cramps…

  14. Jean

    I find a glass of tonic water helps

  15. Mina
    northern Calif

    Long ago, the chemical-oceanography professor said that the minerals in sea water are in the same proportions as in our bodies (and other animals too). Only seawater is more saline because of all the millions of years since our ancestors crawled out of the ocean, while rivers brought more salt down to the sea.

    So I thought that sea salt should have the correct sodium /potassium balance for us. All we would need would be more iodine, since humans, unlike other land mammals, require more iodine, if we are not getting a shoreline diet.

    So I had been thinking about that, and when I saw the Iodized Sea Salt in the store, I said “That’s what I need!” And I almost entirely stopped having leg cramps. (The reason I was thinking about potassium/sodium balance. My sister had been told “not enough potassium”.) Unless I eat too many processed foods in a day, occasionally.

    (PS I had tried the pickle juice before this, after I heard it on your show. A little does make a leg cramp go away.)

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