grabbing the sole of the foot in pain

Have you ever been awakened in the middle of the night with a leg cramp? One minute you are fast asleep and the next you are in agony with muscle spasms. When a muscle cramps up it can take a long time for it to let go. In the meantime, you will be wide awake seeking relief. Some people try to massage the arch of the foot. Others stretch out the calf or thigh. Many make a painful trek to the refrigerator to get yellow mustard or pickle juice (see our explanation of what causes leg cramps and quick remedies to overcome them at this link). Here’s another quick approach to stop leg cramps and muscle spasms quickly.

A Reader Shares the Mouth Pinch Technique:

Q. You wrote recently about leg cramps. Back in 1985, a medical doctor told us about pinching the side of our mouth opposite the leg which has a cramp.

In other words, if you have a cramp in the left leg, pinch the right side of your mouth (with the pointer finger inside the mouth and the middle finger on the outside). She said it worked like acupuncture.

This technique has always worked for me and my wife, including this week when a cramp woke me up. It stopped almost immediately!

A. Leg cramps or muscle spasms may be triggered by over-activated nerves. Other people have described a similar technique. They recommend pinching the center of the upper lip, right under the nose, for a minute or two.

Pinch the Lip to Stop Leg Cramps and Muscle Spasms:

One reader shared this history:

“One day I read an article about Frank Broyles. When he was coaching at Arkansas, he told players with leg cramps to pinch the upper lip right beneath the nose and hold it until the cramps eased. I thought this sounded odd, but I tried it.

“When the cramps started, I pinched my upper lip and the cramps gradually went away. I don’t how or why it works, I just know it did for me.”

Joel in Atlanta, Georgia has a variation on the upper lip strategy to stop leg cramps and muscle spasms:

“I ran track and cross country back in high school and cramps were always notorious for everyone on the team, especially the distance runners. These are the kind of leg cramps that made me afraid to fall asleep after a heavy practice because I knew that more than likely I’d wake in the middle of the night in excruciating pain.

“Our coach first taught us the technique of pinching our bottom lips as hard as we could and the cramps would ease off quickly. We all thought he was crazy but I tried it one night and have pinched my bottom lip ever since when I get a leg cramp. It absolutely works!”

Christy can stop leg cramps and muscle cramps in 3 seconds:

“I’ve used the ‘pinch between the nose and the upper lip’ many times and it worked every time. Only took about 3 seconds of hard pinching.”

Wanda remembered that a great tennis champion used the lip pinch technique:

“I remember reading an article about tennis champ, Chris Evert. She mentioned that she pinched her upper lip when she got a cramp. Totally forgot it until now.

“I LOVE sleeping with my bar of Ivory under the sheet. As soon as the bar in the bathroom is running down I know it’s time to put a fresh bar under the sheet and start using the old one in the bathroom. It’s worked now for several years and it’s also stopped my restless legs from walking all over the place. Thanks for all your wonderful books, articles and radio shows.”

An Explanation for the Lip Pinch to Stop Leg Cramps and Muscle Spasms?

We speculate that this kind of intense pressure stimulates sensory nerves through TRP (transient receptor potential) channels in the mouth. These specialized structures detect pressure, heat and a variety of flavors. That is why we think vinegar, mustard, hot pepper, ginger and cinnamon also calm leg cramps for some people.

When TRP channels are actuated, they send nerve signals to the affected muscles. Many people report that their cramps let up within two minutes.

Would You Like to Learn More Ways to Stop Leg Cramps and Muscle Spasms?

We have written extensively about these problems because they are so common and there are no FDA-approved drugs to help. We have also interviewed a brilliant neuroscientist about the causes and cures to stop leg cramps and muscle spasms in under two minutes. Here is a link to that interview. It is free!

Show 1054: The Scientific Explanation for a Weird Remedy (Archive)

If you would like to learn more about simple treatments for leg cramps and many other common problems, you may be interested in our book, Quick & Handy Home Remedies. It is our highest rated publication. Readers give it 4.9 out of a possible 5 stars. It is available at this link.

Soap to Stop Leg Cramps and Muscle Spasms?

You may also find our Bed Soap and Leg Soap of interest. Bed Soap is flat and has a subtle lavender fragrance that might help with sleep.

A Few Reviews:

Lynne in Hillsborough, NC is a repeat customer:

“This will be my 3rd box of soap. I had terrible foot, ankle and calf cramps that woke me up every night. Occasionally, I had them during the day too. I knew about soap under the sheets so I tried what I had (Dial). It seemed to work a little bit however, I still had the cramps in a milder version.

“I decided to try your Bed Soap. I cannot express my relief after the first night. No cramps…… none. My husband has also had leg cramps and restless legs for awhile. They would sometimes be so bad he would jump up and try to walk them off on the way to the fridge for pickle juice.

“Since using your soap, we both sleep lots better and have no cramps for a long period. I always know when it’s time to change the bar, because I begin to get mild foot/ankle cramps. You’ve got a real winner here. Please, don’t stop making and selling it.”

Miriam in Schenectady, New York was able to stop leg cramps and muscle spasms really fast:

“I put your soap under the fitted sheet and did not have any leg cramps. Two nights ago I woke up with such bad cramps that I wanted to scream. Where’s my soap? It had scooted itself over to the other side of the bed so I pushed it back where it belonged and within minutes the cramps were gone.”

Charlotte in Seattle has restless legs:

“I’ve had 2 bars of this lavender scented bed soap in bed with me for a few nights now. I put one just above my ankles and one just above my knees. The thing is that I get restless legs before I go to bed–while I’m watching TV or reading, stretched out on the recliner. It’s always gone by the time I go to bed. Occasionally, though, I get restless legs in bed, so for me, I’m hoping the soap will prevent it. As for restless legs early in the evening, I can wear socks and will try the Tea Olive Soap Chips in my socks.

“About the fragrance of the bed soap and leg soap, I love them both! That’s saying a lot, because I have asthma and coughing and can tolerate very few fragrances. (Ivory soap is the absolute worst!) I find the lavender and the tea olive fragrances very pleasant and not at all overwhelming. My husband is very particular about fragrances, but he seems to be accepting the bed soap just fine (but I haven’t told him what I’m doing, either).

“I read a review from the lady who had restless legs on an airplane flight. Now that’s me. For anyone who hasn’t experienced this, there are hardly words to describe it. It’s like being tortured! When I tried to do leg exercises in my seat, hoping to alleviate the RLS, I ended up with the most excruciating leg cramps.

“The next time I get on a plane, I’m going to “wear” soap chips–in my shoes, my socks and my pockets–a whole box, if necessary! I might even make myself custom leg and arm wraps with little pockets for soap chips. You might want to experiment with making some bed soap with the Tea Olive fragrance for those who don’t care for Lavender. Men might prefer the Tea Olive scent.”

Here are links to Bed Soap and Leg Soap.

Let us know what you think about the lip pinch remedy in the comment section below.

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  1. Joseph
    Hamilton Ontario

    I would like to announce to all my fellow lip pinchers that after 39 years of pinching my upper lip for leg cramps I succeeded by accident to bypass the pinching method. You had faith in stopping your leg cramp by pinching your upper lip for leg cramps. I did it for 39 years. I am asking you now that the next time you might experience a leg cramp (just like in the past you pinched your upper lip when most would not) take a leap of faith: just close your eyes, and just pretend that you are pinching your upper lip. You might find a very pleasant surprise. It works. If it does not work for for you you could always go back to pinching the upper lip. I was too lazy to pinch six months ago, and the cramp still stopped as usual. NOW HOW CAN I SHARE IT WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD? SEEMS LIKE A REAL CHALLENGE. Could somebody help.

  2. JOE

    I got really good at relieving leg cramps. Instead of the minutes mentioned, I agree with a lady on a different web site who said it took five seconds. Mine took about that much time, so that’s what you are aiming for. I am thinking about making my own web site for helping people with all types of muscle cramps, like neck and jaw cramps and so many other kinds.

    The last time I had a leg cramp in bed I was trying to turn when my foot wrapped and got stuck in the top sheet when it was so hot. I do not have to pinch my upper lip anymore but just say to the cramp, “LET GO,” and in seconds I have relief. With the neck/shoulder cramp, first I had to discover, after three days of pain, that it really was a cramp. Then I gave this method a try. At first, pinching my upper lip and talking to my cramp did not seem to work but when I was talking to a friend I forgot I had the neck cramp. It came back in the evening and did the same thing and it happened a final time the next day at 10:00 am. That was the last time.


  3. JOE

    I watched the TV show Real People in the early eighties and learned about pinching the upper lip for leg cramps. I used it for many decades but I learned that the lip did not have to be pinched to stop a leg cramp, but I politely ordered the cramp to “Let Go.” For harder cramps in the body I pinch the upper lip as well as tell my cramp to let go.

    When I was caulking under a three foot deck to plug a video cable hole I was really in a weird position on my knees and using my head for support. I noticed a cramp sensation starting in my left leg. My rubber glove was covered in caulking, and I couldn’t use my left hand for pinching. I was stuck and said to my cramp, “LET GO,” and in a fraction of a second it disappeared. I was very proud when pinching my upper lip and telling my neck/shoulder cramp to let go. It disappeared permamently after three successful attempts.

    With the shoulder cramp I was in pain for three days before I decided that it felt like a muscle cramp. It was like when people show their bicepts but in my case the shoulder/neck muscle would not release. MY CONTRIBUTION TO THE PINCHING IS THAT YOU DO NOT HAVE TO ALWAYS PINCH BUT TELL YOUR CRAMP TO “LET GO.” We are talking seconds before you see results.

  4. Wraith

    All of the remedies seem to take 2-3mins to work. I only get calf cramps, but bad enough to pass out if nothing is done. If you take the opposite foot from the leg with the cramp, place it under the ball of the foot of the leg with the cramp and force the foot to point up, or even towards the head if possible, it stops it in seconds. You can feel the cramp going away, so keep doing it until the tightness is completely gone. I’ll try the pinch while doing the foot lift, but doing the pinch alone would mean passing out if it takes 2mins.

  5. Vivien

    Both my husband and myself suffer terrible foot / leg cramps at night in bed – bad enough to bring you out of your sleep. – So many thanks for advice given on here – will certainly try.


    I suffer from back spasms. Do you have any remedies?

  7. Brian
    Ottawa On. Canada

    I have a remedy for hemorrhoids that is all natural & effective at reducing the outside swelling of hemorrhoids. After 2 weeks of taking this cocktail daily my outside swelling almost vanished completely. You need to blend 1 cup of raw spinach {personally I use more } with 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, 1/2cup strawberries & 1 cup of filtered water. The reason for Vanilla flavored Yogurt is that it has the least amount of sugar. You should still check the contents section to ensure the lowest amount of sugar possible, usually 3 grams per serving is the lowest I have found. This compares to over 20 grams if you eat fruit flavored yogurt. It is far healthier to buy plain yogurt which has no sugar & add your own fresh fruit.

  8. Ron

    If I take one 250mg Magnesium tablet daily, I have no leg cramps.

  9. ebm

    Perhaps the person does not know her finger from her thumb!
    Index and middle finger is possible if you pull up the corner of your mouth or an light pinch.
    Many, many years ago I bought a footless calf “sock” with a pocket on the outside to hide money while traveling overseas. Ordered it from a catalog like Dr.Leonard or Four Corners or Dream Products. It would be ideal to wear soap chips in it for calf cramps.
    Knitters, start your needles, perhaps a new item for PPh. to sell!

  10. Antoon

    I deal with leg cramps with magnesium supplements.
    Magnesium chloride is the preferred product. Dissolve 1part of mgc with 3 parts of water, apply to the skin a teaspoon amount at the time or use a spray bottle and squirt a few squirts onto your skin. This has other and many benefits.

  11. Val

    I started keeping a bottle of magnesium tablets on the nightstand because taking one would stop a cramp in less than a minute. Eventually I just started taking 250 mg magnesium daily with my other supplements and have not had a muscle cramp in years.

  12. William

    How do you pinch with the index finger and middle finger? The only way I know to pinch is with the thumb and index finger. I can’t even picture how one would do it the way described.

    • Kate

      Agreed – Please explain.

    • Maria

      Thank I was wondering myself, try this couldn’t do it, but the mouth lip to nose seem easy.

    • Evelyn
      Newton, NJ

      I’m pretty sure they mean the thumb and index finger!

    • Liz B.
      Arlington, TX

      William is absolutely correct. Use your thumb and index finger! I’ve been using this technique for 25 years and it always, always works.

  13. suesie
    Kansas City

    I have been using compression socks especially when I know I will be on my feet. I find them a big help in preventing leg cramps along with Hyland Leg Cramp PM pills.

    • Kate
      Alpharetta GA

      I’ve had great luck with the Hyland Leg Cramp tablets – the ones you melt under your tongue act quickly. I keep 3 on the table next to my bed and grab them at the first inking of a nighttime leg or foot cramp.

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