painful leg cramps, your leg cramps, painful foot cramps

Have you ever leapt out of bed in the middle of the night with a terrible pain in your calf or your hamstring? Nocturnal leg cramps can really wreck a night’s sleep. Some people are quite susceptible to them at nearly any time, while others may experience them only after vigorous or unusual exercise. There are no medications that will help most leg cramps, but home remedies can be useful. Could a silly-sounding remedy prevent your leg cramps?

Soap in Bed to Ease Your Leg Cramps:

Q. I am so grateful to have discovered a leg cramp cure on your website. I was very skeptical about putting soap under my sheets. But when I tried this trick, it helped!

The first time I used it, the soap worked for two or three months, and then it stopped. I decided to take a fork and score the surface. That did it! Now I do that as soon as my leg cramps come back.

Scoring the Soap:

A. We have heard from many readers that some brands of soap can prevent or stop leg and hand cramps. An anesthesiologist actually did some preliminary studies using soap and soap-scented oil on the skin (Ough, Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept. 1, 2008). He found that the scent itself could relieve muscular pain, even though it is not a topical analgesic.

We speculate that the soap scent is working through olfactory receptors in the skin that activate specialized nerve channels. By doing so, it may dampen the inappropriate nerve activity causing muscle cramps.

The fragrance dissipates over time. By scoring your soap, you are exposing a new layer that can release scent.

Lavender Soap Under the Sheets Relieve Your Leg Cramps:

Q. I’ve heard of soap for leg cramps before but this sounded more like an urban myth.  Lately I have been having  cramps at least several times a night. This has been going on for months. I tried potassium and calcium supplements, but they had no effect. I then tried an over-the-counter cramp medicine that didn’t work. I read that cold feet can cause cramps, so I put on socks. No good. Really hot baths and several other remedies were equally unhelpful.

I was taking Advil at night which helped a little, cutting the cramps to 2 to 3 cramps instead of 3 to 4 a night. So what the heck, I figured, I will try the soap. I opened a brand new bar of Jergens that smelled great but didn’t work. In fact I had more cramps, none of them major. I often have to get out of bed and walk and the cramp goes away pretty quickly. I then tried two bars of Jergens with no result. I then tried a bar of Olay since the scent was a lot stronger, again no result. So thought the effect people were getting was pure placebo.

The next night my wife said she bought some more soap. She bought Ivory since I had mentioned that some people use Ivory. She also had one bar that said lavender and I remembered a post that recommended it. So I tried the lavender soap. I was pretty surprised to wake up the next morning having not experienced a single cramp, and the same the next night. So for me it was not any bar of soap but one with lavender.

Lovely Lavender Soap for Your Leg Cramps:

A. We are pleased to hear that the lavender soap worked. The scent of lavender has a reputation for soothing folks into sleep, so it’s great that it also soothed your muscles.

Soap tucked under the bottom sheet, near the legs, does not work for everyone but we have heard from many readers who find this is very helpful in preventing nighttime leg cramps.

We would like to mention that our People’s Pharmacy Bed Soap was designed to be used for this home remedy, although other brands also work. It is perfectly nice soap to use in the shower, but the bar is broad and thin, so it creates less of an obstacle for the legs. It also has a  lavender aroma. That said, we trust that you will continue to get relief with lavender-scented soap from any source. If the effect starts to fade, scoring the soap should revive it.

Other Readers Share Their Experience:

Many other readers have tried this remedy, some with considerable skepticism. Here are a few of their stories. Some of them might inspire you to try a way to help your leg cramps.

Judy related:

“I, too, have leg and foot cramps when I retire for the night. I now have two bars of soap in bed with me at all times. When my foot goes into a cramp I put the bar against the bottom of my foot and within seconds the cramp is gone. I have leg pain almost nightly and put the soap bar directly on my leg for relief. No doubts here.”

Tony said:

“I found that putting a small bar inside my sock around the ankle area helps a great deal when on a long hike.”

SR wrote:

“I have used Dial soap between our sheets for years. I don’t know how it works nor why, but it does.”

Another reader noted:

“A herbalist in our neighborhood usually uses a leaf called Tuba-tuba; it’s the native name for that leaf here in the Philippines. It’s very effective for leg cramps.”

Joy is enthusiastic:

“The soap theory really does work. With severe night cramps 2 or 3 times a week, I just had to try something. A bar of lavender soap did it for me. I placed lavender soap as recommended in my bed 3 months ago and have had no cramp since, so until I find a better remedy, I’m sticking with this scented companion and ignoring the skeptics.”

Ron recommends:

“I read about lavender soap reducing the incidence of nighttime leg cramps. I used lavender oil, and out a dab of it on my upper lip when I retire for the night. I was sceptical, but qualitatively, I believe the cramps are reduced.”

Have you found that soap prevents your leg cramps at night? Or have you discovered a different remedy that helps? Tell us about it in the comment section.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. joan d
    jupiter, flprida

    Absolutely, lavender soap (price $1.00) stopped my leg cramps. When my daughter heard that comment, I laughed and said, how silly. At 82 years young, yes it works. Told my pregnant granddaughter who has really bad cramps, to try it. She is sooooo grateful.

  2. Bonnie
    Louisburg NC

    I have laryngspasm and I put a trial size bar of soap in the middle of my bra and it is so helpful. I know that this works. I would love to have more information on this condition.

  3. Dave
    Pittsfield, MA

    I’ve experienced leg cramps for a year or more now and I’ve tried it all, Co-Q-10, 8oz of tonic water (quinine), the little leg cramp pills. I had good results with it all (temporarily) until my body became immune to my self-prescribed treatments. My doctor recommended I take 250mg of magnesium supplement before bedtime. That worked for awhile just like the Co-Q-10, the quinine in tonic water, and the little leg cramp pills. I eventually increased the dose to 500mg and then 750mg and still no permanent solution. 

    I learned that in most cases leg cramps are a result of a magnesium deficiency but not all magnesium supplements are the same. From what I read online the best type of magnesium for leg cramps is called “Magnesium Glycinate” so I tried to find it in three different pharmacies, and they only carried “Magnesium Oxide” which I had been using so I ordered some online yesterday.

    While talking with the last pharmacist she asked if I’d tried a bar of soap under the sheets near my feet? Of course I chuckled at the thought but told her I might as well try it since nothing else was working yet. I’ll bet you can guess what I am about to tell you next, huh? I placed a fresh bar of soap under the sheets, and this morning I woke up the most rested and refreshed I’ve been since I can remember! Haven’t received my order of Magnesium Glycinate yet but you can bet the soap will be under the sheets tonight!!! Lol

  4. Beverly

    I’ve suffered for years with nightly leg cramps which only last for a minute or so but it happens two or three times a night…almost every night. Sometimes foot or calf, rarely both. I’d like to know if you use a new bar of soap or a used bar? Whole or half or pieces? I’m going out now to get a bar with lavender. I thought about using the mustard but I would rather curtail them before instead of after they hit.

    • David
      Pittsfield MA 01201

      Update on Magnesium Glycinate:
      I received the bottle I ordered and took two pills for 2-nights. Contracted a case of diarrhea and stopped taking them. Gonna try the Co-Q-10 pills again and add bananas back in my morning cereal.

  5. Frances

    With Leg Cramps I drink a glass of water. After two or three minutes the leg cramps go away.

  6. Sally

    I had forgotten all about the soap at the bottom of the bed trick! Several years ago I used it often (much to my 8 year old grandsons disbelief!). The last month or so I have had a constant Charlie horse cramp in my left calf whenever I walk. Arnica, massage, icing hasn’t helped much.

    Upping my magnesium and stopping at the store for a new bar of Ivory soap (what worked for me in the past) on my way home for work today!

  7. Nina
    Manhattan Beach, Calif.

    I had severe leg Doctor told me to take 400 mg of magnesium
    daily. I started and have had no leg cramps since. As extra insurance I also put a bar of Ivory Soap under the sheets near my feet so that may be working too. I will continue to do both as long as they are working.

  8. Rita
    Madison, WI

    I’ve had success with leg cramps and restless leg for years since I read about the bar of soap in the “Ask Dr. Gott” advice column. I didn’t think of taking soap when we visited family and friends with whom we stayed. If we stayed a third night, the cramps returned! Now I never leave home overnight without it!

  9. Ken R.
    Jacksonville, Fl.

    I have found that bar of soap under a sheet (I use two at the foot of the bed) really helps !!!
    1.) Restless Leg Syndrome: I feel that I have eliminated 90 to 95% of RLS with the soap.
    2.) Arthritis: I have arthritis in my toes and the soap has eliminated at least 90% of the pain
    and inflammation.
    3.) Rheumatoid Arthritis: I have RA in two fingers and when I have a bar of soap in my hand
    it eliminates the pain.
    4.) Sciatic Nerve Pain: I put a bar of soap on my hip and sometimes in the waist band of my
    pj’s and this eliminates 95% of my pain.
    5.) Hip Pain: (see above) I need hip replacement surgery, but have been enduring the pain
    in my hip and limping around until I used the bar of soap at night and a bar in my pants
    pocket during the day. Eliminates a good 90% of the pain.
    I understand it is a chemical in the fragrance of the bar of soap. I have been doing this for two
    months now and as time goes on I have been using more bars of soap (Zest & Irish Spring).


  10. Jackie

    I take a magnesium supplement every day.
    Voila! No cramps. Most of us are deficient in magnesium.

  11. Eileen

    Usually Palmolive soap, 98% effective! I take it when ever I travel anywhere. I put it in a sock to keep it from sliding around, but that flatter soap the People’s Pharmacy sells, sounds like a good thing. I’ll try it. Thanks. Definitely recommend this soap fix for leg cramps. Don’t go to sleep without it.

  12. Marilyn

    I was in a hotel when I got leg cramps. I hobbled to the bathroom grabbed the soap from the dish and rubbed on my legs then put the bar in the bed. Relief!

  13. Frances

    It just dawned on me. I have a lot of remedies for leg cramps; Magnesium oil rubbed on the leg before bed, and drinking maybe 2/3rds of a glass of Tonic water, and I just remembered that recently maybe a month or so ago I put a bar of soap under my sheet at the bottom of the bed and have not had any leg or foot cramps yet. Amazing.

  14. Chris

    I, too, have had great success with a bar of soap under my sheets to prevent leg cramps. The least obtrusive ones are the flat bars of soap that are provided in hotel rooms/bathrooms. And lavender is the best fragrance.

  15. TOM

    After suffering from Severe upper leg cramps for years i found a veterinary book that gave me a cure that works. I take a calcium magnesium pill every couple of weeks and it totally prevents me from getting these cramps.
    If I forget to take a pill and get a cramp I grind up a pill and take it with water . The cramp gone within 2 or 3 mniutes
    I have passed this info to other people and they have found relief when nothing else works!

    try it

  16. Linda
    Tacoma WA USA

    I rub pure glycerin, ( an ingredient in many soaps), into my legs and feet every night, and it stops my cramps.

  17. Sue
    Marietta, Ga.

    I use pickle juice and it helps a great deal. I get severe body cramps, and eat a pickle before going to bed several times per week.

  18. LaVonne

    I have had leg cramps for years as my Dad did also. I have been taking potassium gluconate 550mg and magnesium 500mg for over 2 years and no longer get leg cramps.

  19. LaVonne

    I have had leg cramps for years as my Dad did also. I have been taking potassium gluconate 550mg and magnesium 500mg for over 2 years and no longer get leg cramps.

  20. Joyce

    Ivory soap does work for me. Most natural pure soap on market.

  21. Mary Ellen
    Garner NC

    Actually, just holding a bar of soap when you get the cramp relieves it in just seconds. I am fairly tall, and the lumpy bar under the sheets usually ended up getting kicked down to the face of the side of the mattress. I have been keeping a bar of soap under the pillow next to me, and when I feel a cramp coming on, I grab the soap and get almost instant relief. No explanation, just results!

  22. Barbara E.

    I would like to share my finding relief from leg cramps. I tried the bar of soap but as I’m a restless sleeper it didn’t work. I read what the ingredients in soap were that gave the relief.
    Reading that it was probably the oil and scent I decided to try perfume spray on the soles
    of my feet. IT WORKED! It even works in any daytime cramping in hands. You don’t need
    pricey perfume….a knock off spray will work.

  23. Ann

    I knew about soap under the sheet but didn’t have it in place when severe leg cramps struck. I grabbed a bar and rubbed the dry bar on my leg. Immediate relief!

  24. Gerry

    I’ve used Ivory pieces under the sheet now for several years after reading about it on your site. I use Ivory in the bathroom and kitchen sinks for hand and face washing, and when it breaks or gets too small I stick it under the sheet. I’ve always been frugal and this way it works twice as long!

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.