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Can You Smear Liquid Soap on Your Legs to Get RLS Relief?

Readers have found that you don't have to put soap under the bottom sheet to get RLS relief. Just smear liquid soap right on the legs!
Can You Smear Liquid Soap on Your Legs to Get RLS Relief?
Close up Bare Feet of a Young Woman Lying Down on a Blue Bed Captured in High Angle View.

Do you suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)? The medical term for this condition is Willis-Ekbom disease, named after the Swedish doctor who studied it. Dr. Ekbom didn’t come up with a great cure for RLS, though. People still reported a frequent, super uncomfortable sensation in the legs that could be eliminated only by moving them. Sometimes this sensation is painful, or it may be more annoying. Usually it strikes when the legs are still, as when someone is sitting on an airplane or trying to go to sleep. Doctors can prescribe medications for this condition, but they do have potentially serious side effects. One reader reported an easy, inexpensive approach to RLS relief. 

Liquid Soap for RLS Relief:

Q. I suffer from restless leg syndrome and have tried various medications and home remedies with limited success. A few years ago, I read on your website that someone had used liquid soap on their legs, which relieved their symptoms within minutes.

I have been using this method ever since with excellent results. I have only used pump soaps labeled anti-bacterial, though I’m not sure whether that matters.

Whenever I feel restless leg symptoms, I just put on some soap as you would apply lotion. It relieves my symptoms within a few minutes.

I have tried this over 30 or 40 times with almost 100 percent success. Have you ever heard of this remedy for restless leg syndrome?

What Is the Story on Soap?

A. Readers have been telling us for decades that slipping a bar of (solid) soap under the bottom sheet can alleviate restless leg syndrome. There has, however, been little or no research on the use of soap for RLS relief.

That said, an anesthesiologist published two studies on the use of soap or soap-scented oil (SSO) to treat pain (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July, 2008; Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept. 2008). 

Dr. Ough reported that

“the SSO skin patch consistently and adequately relieved muscular pain.”

He was convinced that the effect was due to the scent. That suggests to us that it might be working through transient receptor potential (TRP) channels located in the skin (Pharmaceuticals, Dec. 14, 2016). These may be sensitive to the volatile compounds that create aroma. One of these, limonene, is a common component of soap fragrance and activates TRPA1 (European Journal of Pain, Aug. 2016).

RLS is a mysterious neuromuscular condition that is hard to treat. If liquid soap can be helpful, it’s a low-tech option for RLS relief.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
Citations
  • Ough YD et al, "Soap-scented skin patch for menstrual cramps: a case series." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July, 2008. DOI: 10.1089/acm.2007.0819
  • Ough YD, "Soap-scented oil skin patch in the treatment of fibromyalgia: A case series." Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept. 2008.
  • Caterina MJ & Pang Z, "TRP channels in skin biology and pathophysiology." Pharmaceuticals, Dec. 14, 2016. DOI: 10.3390/ph9040077
  • Kaimoto T et al, "Involvement of transient receptor potential A1 channel in algesic and analgesic actions of the organic compound limonene." European Journal of Pain, Aug. 2016. DOI: 10.1002/ejp.840
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