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Dumb Idea Pays Off

Q. Using soap for muscle cramps was the stupidest idea I’d heard in a long while. I tried drinking tonic water for the quinine, eating lots of bananas for the extra potassium and anything else I had heard about, but nothing worked. I was ready for stupid ideas. The pain was awful in my feet, so why not? I cut a small soap chip to put in each sock at night. So far the results have been magical. I’m now a believer.

A. No single remedy works for everyone who has muscle cramps, but soap chips in socks or under the bed sheet seem to help a lot of people. Anesthesiologist Yon Doo Ough, MD, placed crushed Ivory soap on a homemade skin patch over cramping muscles and found that the pain was relieved (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July, 2008).

Another peculiar remedy for muscle cramps that has found some scientific support is pickle juice. Scientists at North Dakota State University in Fargo had healthy young cyclists exercise to the point of fatigue and then induced toe cramps with electrical stimulation. A small amount of pickle juice alleviated the cramps within about half a minute (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, May 2010).

To learn more about remedies for nighttime leg cramps, you may want to consult our Guide to Leg Pain.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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