soap for hand cramps, stop hand cramps

Have you ever suffered from cramps in the muscles of your hand? In addition to hurting like the dickens, such a cramp can make it nearly impossible to use your hand until the muscle contraction is relaxed. Is there a way to stop hand cramps quickly and easily?

How to Stop Hand Cramps by Holding a Bar of Soap:

Q. I tried putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet and it worked extremely well to prevent foot cramps. One night I developed painful cramping in my hands. I got up and took another bar from the sink. Just holding it for a few minutes stopped the cramps.

From then on I’ve kept a bar of soap in an athletic sock tied off at the open end. I put the sock at the foot of the bed, under my covers and near my feet.

When I get hand cramps I just reach down and get the soap-sock and hold it for a few minutes. Once I get relief, I put it back near my feet. I use Ivory and change the bar every month.

A. You are not the first person to tell us that soap works to stop hand cramps as well as leg cramps. Card players and fishermen report that when their hands cramp up, holding a bar of soap can often bring relief within minutes.

One of the early reports we got was from a reader who said:

“I have arthritis in my hands, so when I go to bed I hold a bar of soap and the pain goes away immediately.”

Another told us about her husband, who was troubled with cramps in his hands while playing cards:

“I got a bar of soap and put it in his hand. Within a minute the pain subsided. He held the bar for about 10 minutes and the cramp never came back. Now we keep a bar of soap near where we play cards.”

How Does This Work?

We suspect that the volatile oils in the soap fragrance might be affecting nerves that are misfiring and causing the cramps. Until recently, we did not have much of an explanation, though there was some research confirming that the fragrance in soap can make cramping muscles relax and ease the pain of fibromyalgia (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sept., 2008).

Previously, physiologists and sports medicine physicians thought that muscle cramps could be attributed primarily to dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Although those conditions may trigger some cramps, a pair of neurobiologists have come up with a completely different theory. (You can read more about it here.) As they explain it, muscle cramps are triggered by misfiring motor neurons. Overwhelming the sensory neurons in the mouth and throat with strong tasting foods such as mustard or hot sauce can often halt the misfiring and stop the affected muscle from contracting.

So far as we know, these brilliant scientists have not looked at soap as a way to stop hand cramps or other muscle cramps. But skin also has sensory neurons that pick up scent (Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Nov., 2014). It is possible, though at this point it is just our hypothesis, that overwhelming these skin olfactory sensors could work in a similar way to overwhelming the taste receptors and short-circuit the motor neurons that are misfiring to cause hand cramps.

Any Scented Soap Will Probably Work:

If you would like soap to stop hand cramps or prevent leg cramps at night, we offer The People’s Pharmacy Bed Soap, scented with lavender and flat to create less of a lump in bed. For hand cramps or to add to socks for daytime use, we offer The People’s Pharmacy Leg Soap, small chips scented with tea olive fragrance. Although we have designed these soaps specifically to help against muscle cramps, many readers report success with other easily available soaps.

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  1. Gary
    Venice, Florida

    I have been doing the soap between the sheets thing for 4 days. It has stopped the cramping from day one. I also have a bar under my pillow, and it has been giving me some neck pain relief. For my low back pain, I shredded a half bar, put it in a leg of a panty hose, stretched it under the sheet where my low back lies, and pinned it down with safety pins. I am getting relief in all these areas.

    BUT, I have been getting very dry mouth after every two hours of sleeping. Now I need to get up and drink water to help that&^$(*&#@. Oh well, it is a whole lot better than the cramps. I do sleep better, and urinate at night far less often than before.
    NOTE: anyone else experiencing the ‘Dry Mouth’ issues please respond.

  2. Larry

    I have suffered with leg, foot, and hand cramps for years. I heard about using a bar of soap and used a bar I had on hand. Slept through the night, no cramps. When I get hand cramps I hold the bar in the affected hand. It helps keep my fingers from getting in painful shapes, and within a short period of time the cramps are gone. I use a dry wash cloth to rub down the soap once a month, and I’m still using the same bar 8 months later. I wear a pair of shorts with pockets and put the soap in one of the pockets instead of placing under sheets, and it works great.

  3. Margaret
    New York

    Real trigger finger comes from a tightening of the tendon sheath in the hand. It’s not the same as a cramp, though there might be cramping associated with it. I’ve had trigger finger in all ten fingers and have had four operated on. It takes a long time to cure trigger finger naturally, but I got rid of five of them (still have one finger that triggers). Morning soak in very warm water, while moving fingers apart outward and making a fist, followed by stretching of the finger; occasional use of ibuprofen to relieve inflammation (or maybe white willow bark instead). One might also try the soap cure to relieve cramping during the day.

  4. Bill

    I enjoy a couple of glasses of tonic water every few days my cramps dissaper

  5. Marion
    Anywhere USA ( we live in our RV)

    I took quinine pills for a long time and they worked great for me with no side effects. I was very upset when they took them off the market. Since then I have been drinking pickle juice and I do not like the taste of it but continue using it because it works. I’ve heard of the hand soap and I’m going to try a scented bar that I have under my sheets. I hope this works because they’re getting much worse as I get older. I’m over 60 and I understand they get worse as you get older. I will post again after I’ve used it for a while and see how it works. Thanks to everyone for the great advice!

  6. Carmi

    I am a diabetic, and prefer not to use Schweppes Tonic Water or Schweppes Bitter Lemon, also with Quinine. When in Europe one can find artificially sweetened Tonic
    Water, which didn’t seem as effective as the real thing. Doctors have suggested using more insulin – but I refuse.

    All Statins seem to cause Leg Muscle Spasms to many people, even Rosuvastatin. I’m 86 and hardworking and refusing to go back, and am not sure if Statins are necessary at my age.

    Will try soap for hand cramps, sounds good.

    What definitely gives some immediate relief Potassium Chloride salt- I wet a finger and coat it with the salt. No question that Magnesium pills help; the oxide before bed and the Citrate chewed when KCl isn’t enough.

    Someone should convince a soda water company to make artificially sweetened Tonic Water, everywhere.

    • Lise
      Charlottesville, VA

      To the person who wished for artificially sweetened tonic water, there is a product called Zevia that is sweetened with Stevia and tastes fine if you are okay with stevia’s distinctive taste. Zevia Tonic water is one of there line of products. Available on Amazon.

      • Gary
        Venice, Florida

        I live in Florida. My grocery store carries its own brand of Tonic water with Quinine that is sweetened with ‘Splenda’….’0’ carbs……and it’s the cheapest….it works…..but ‘SOAP’ is the best.

  7. John
    Fort Lauderdale FL & Toronto ON

    Yes it works! I’ve suffered for years with sudden night leg cramps in the oddest places like my big toe or in my arch or a thin muscle alongside my shinbone, also the typical ones like calf cramp. I have to jump out of bed and stand on the crimped part to keep it lengthened.

    Now I take 1000mg Calcium Citrate with 600mg Magnesium Citrate with 5mcg Vit D every day, one morning and two a bedtime. (The Citrate is a digestible form of these minerals and the D helps with absorbing the Magnesium. I split the dosage because it’s impossible to absorb that much at once.

    That helps tremendously in preventing the cramps but I still get some occasionally. Especially if I’ve not been careful to drink at least 32oz water during the day. So I keep Hyland’s Leg Cramps pills in my beside drawer. They are Homeopathic Quinine, meaning there is almost no quinine in the pills but the energy of quinine has been redoubled via the homeopathic method. Actually I prefer the PM version of the same pills as they have other homeopathic ingredients to help me get back to sleep after the panic of a sudden cramp. These little pills, placed under the tongue to slowly dissolve, can RELIEVE THE CRAMP IN UNDER ONE MINUTE! Rarely I will need to take another after several minutes. I stand or walk around until the cramp eases and I can go back to bed.

    Sometimes I will feel a cramp coming on in bed, or after I begin a gym workout or even while out shopping. I keep the small envelopes of salt from fast food places in my wallet and empty it under my tongue to slowly dissolve.

    And yes, when at home I’ve used mustard under the tongue, or pickle juice. So I believe the aroma shock to the olfactory nerves might well be effective for me too. I love Patchouli, a pungent, earthy odor, so I’ll keep some lotion on hand and a sachet dabbed with essential oil under the sheet.

    Now that I think of it, I have some lotion from a local herbalist called Pain Ease. It’s simply a good skin lotion with a pleasant but rather sharp odor from eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, and black pepper oils. And yes, used overnight, it does help the awful arthritis pain I get in the heel of my thumbs!

  8. Jan

    Would these “hand cramps” include what I call, “trigger finger”? I have a hard time with that – will surely try soap next time. Hate that pain!!

  9. Thai

    Yes, I’ve found that too much texting can cause my hand muscles to hurt. I keep a bar of soap on my desk at home and wondered if the shape of a bar of soap might also be helpful because of the shape and size of the bar? It actually FEELS so good to maneuver the soap round and round in my hand, it’s smooth and has a great feel as it slides around inside the palm and fingers. I always thought that’s what makes the muscles get back to feeling mostly normal after “working” the bar in my hand!

    • Paul
      Bridgeport, WV

      Interesting comment. I suffer from leg and foot cramps and have surgery on both hands for what I call trigger finger. I’m going to try the soap and see what happens.

  10. Karen
    New York

    I don’t think it’s the volatile oils, since one person cited said they use Ivory, which has no scent.

  11. Maryann

    This may help those whose hands cramp from gaming\cell phone usage.

    • Linda

      Ivory soap does have a scent, it’s ‘lightly scented’ according to the product description.

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