If you search cure leg cramps on our website you will likely find all sort of remedies. They include pickle juice, pickle relish, yellow mustard, tonic water, soap under the bottom sheet, glycerin, B vitamins, bananas and V8 juice, to name just a few. We did not think there was a cramp remedy we hadn’t heard of. Then along came a new cure for leg cramps.
Could an Ice Pack Cure Leg Cramps?
A reader sent us the following message:
Q. We discovered a simple and nearly instant treatment for leg cramps. Stand on an icepack.
This has worked for my husband and me time and time again. A plastic zipper bag with cubes works fine. Just put it under your bare foot and stand still until the cramp goes away. You won’t believe how quickly it will be effective.
A. Wow! We thought we had heard of just about every leg cramp remedy known to man (and woman), but this is a new one for us.
Can Science Explain a Bizarre Leg Cramp Remedy?
There may even be an explanation for this discovery. Specialized ion (TRP or transient receptor potential) channels are found on cell membranes throughout the body. They transmit sensations of heat and cold. These TRP channels also respond to strong flavors like vinegar, chili peppers and ginger.
Many people report that swallowing a spoonful of yellow mustard or an ounce of pickle juice (containing vinegar) can quickly reverse muscle cramps. We think this is accomplished by stimulating TRP channels. This appears to quickly calm the misfiring nerves that cause cramps.
Jim shares his story about mustard:
“The mustard remedy works for me. About once a month from 7-11 pm some friends get together to play cards. I have a damaged lower back so sitting more than an hour or two is difficult enough. It is often compounded by a severe leg cramp.
“A spoonful of Mustard takes it away quickly or another spoonful if it’s really bad. I also keep yellow mustard packets in my carry on if flying because I have experienced cramps on airplanes also.”
Vicki in Georgia tells a mustard tale:
“I have a funny story about mustard treating leg cramps. My 80-year-old-mother was having a leg cramp while sitting in a recliner at my house. I received a phone call from my best friend at the same time and she said ‘give her a spoonful of mustard!’ So I reluctantly did it and it worked immediately.
“One might think that when the person suffering from leg cramps gets up and walks to get the mustard out of the refrigerator that it would be the walking that ‘cured’ the leg cramp. But I was the one who walked to get the mustard.
“Yep! I, too, was skeptical but also amazed and gratefu that mom was no longer in pain. Thanks People’s Pharmacy for the home remedies! We skeptics don’t have to try them but when we eliminate pain without drugs, we are so happy! Blessings to you and your staff! Sincerely, Vicki in Georgia”
A Scientific Explanation for How Mustard Might Cure Leg Cramps:
If you would like to hear a neurobiologist explain how all this works in understandable language, listen to our syndicated radio show. You can download the mp3 file for free, get the free podcast or stream the audio for free:
Why Might an Icepack Cure Leg Cramps?
Swallowing mustard (or vinegar, or ginger, or tonic water) likely stimulates TRP channels in the mouth, throat and stomach. We suspect that standing on ice may have much the same effect from the other end of the body. TRP channels are found in the mouth as well as the skin. TRP channels respond to heat as well as to cold!
Be careful, though. We don’t want anyone to fall off an icepack in the middle of the night and break a bone. In fact, we don’t think it is necessary to stand on the ice pack at all. Just apply ice to the bottom of your feet. If our theory is right, that should work just as well. Then again, It might be easier and safer to just swallow a teaspoon of yellow mustard!