rows of yellow mustard on a store shelf, muscle spasms, cramps from statins

Leg cramps can strike out of the blue. One minute you are enjoying a bike ride or a hike and the next you are in excruciating pain.

High-Profile Leg Cramps:

Just ask Lebron James about Game 1 of the 2014 NBA Basketball Finals. The air conditioning went out in the San Antonio arena. Whether it was the heat, the humidity or the loss of fluids, his muscle cramps were incapacitating. So even an elite athlete can be laid low with leg cramps.

Leg Cramps Strike the Rest of Us:

It’s hardly surprising that rest of us also suffer. Sometimes the cramps come on in the middle of exercise, but they can also strike hours later while we are fast asleep. Anyone who has ever experienced a charley horse in a big muscle in the middle of the night will tell you how disruptive it can be. Here are just a few stories to give you a sense of what this is like, in case you have never experienced such cramps yourself:

“I am totally sleep deprived. The muscle cramps can strike almost anywhere–my toes, calves, inner or outer thighs and my feet. The pain is sometimes so intense that the cramps bring tears to my eyes.” Doug

“I am plagued with leg cramps that can occur anywhere between my toes and my thighs. They can last anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour, during which time the pain is unbearable. Although they usually occur at night, I have sometimes had a cramp while driving, which is very dangerous because I can’t stretch it out.” J.K.

“My wife suffers terribly with nighttime leg cramps. They wake her (and me) out of a sound sleep. I have tried helping her with cold compresses, hot compresses, tonic water, massage, you name it. Nothing ever works. I hate to see her in such distress night after night.” Fred

There are no approved medications for leg cramps. Ask your doctor for a medication to relieve these muscle spasms, and you might get a blank stare. Although the FDA used to allow quinine for this purpose, the agency has since banned it because some people are extremely vulnerable to dangerous side effects. That leaves home remedies.

Remedies for Leg Cramps:

Over the last couple of decades we have collected lots of remedies for leg cramps. Here are just a few examples of stories from visitors to this website:

A Spoonful of Yellow Mustard:

“I have suffered from terrible leg cramps for years, usually after strenuous outdoor activity including heavy perspiration.

“My tennis-playing teenage daughter once witnessed me in inconsolable pain and ran to the fridge for the bottle of yellow mustard. It’s like a miracle, because all other attempts to control the pain failed. I might add that I suffered both front and back cramps in my thighs that left me in tears for hours.

Thank goodness she had heard about this home remedy from a school coach. I will pass this simple cure to anyone who also suffers from this awful pain. My best guess is that I’m sweating out a vital chemical that bananas and Gatorade cannot replace quickly enough.” Sandy

“I don’t know the science behind the use of yellow mustard to relieve leg cramps but I do know that it works. I recently had a charley horse or upper leg cramp that was so bad that I was in tears. Usually putting some weight on the leg will help, but in this situation I could not even straighten my leg.

“I had heard of the mustard treatment from a friend, so I asked my wife to get me a teaspoonful. Within seconds of swallowing the mustard the cramp had gone.” Brian

V-8 Juice:

“I have had great success preventing leg cramps using V-8 juice that I read about on this site. I have a small juice glass of V-8 everyday. I no longer wake up with leg cramps.” Bev

A Glass of Tonic Water:

“I have been suffering excruciating leg cramps on and off for the last 6 months. They just start up for no reason, usually when I’m lying down.

“When I told my doctor, she suggested I drink tonic water because it has quinine in it. I didn’t think something as simple as that would work, as the pain is so severe, but sure enough it does stop the pain within seconds. I just keep sipping it until the pain goes away; usually about half of a small bottle does it for me.

“She said to drink a glass each day but I only have it when I need it and find it relieves the pain almost immediately. I always keep some small bottles in the house.” L.H.

A Swig of Pickle Juice:

“My leg cramps go on nightly, actually several times a night. They get me out of bed crying they hurt so bad.  So, last night, I took a chance and poured about a shot glass of dill pickle juice in a glass and drank it before I went to sleep. It was the first night I haven’t had a cramp in a couple of weeks.  I’m going to have to buy some more pickles now, and I’ll never throw pickle juice away again!” Jan

A Bar of Soap in Bed:

“Several years ago, I read your article about soap under the sheets, and used it with positive results. While changing linens, the soap fell out after several months and I didn’t think I’d need ‘the cure’ any longer.

“I recently had been suffering from extremely severe leg cramps night and day and thought it was a part of my fibromyalgia. Then I remembered the soap, replaced it and overnight I felt 95% better.” Patricia

“Several years ago, my mother who was 84 years young, shared with me the soap ‘cure’ for night time leg cramps.

“I respectfully asked, ‘And just what kind of scientific principle do we have working here?’ She just said, ‘Go ahead and laugh, it works!’

“I’m a type II diabetic and have long suffered from occasional cramps that were excruciatingly painful, especially ones that affect the front of the shin. They literally bring tears to my eyes.

“I didn’t give my mother’s words of wisdom much thought for quite a while. Arriving back home, almost two months went by and it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t had a cramp for a long time. I mentioned it to my wife who smiled and asked, ‘Was it about the time when we came back from your Mom’s and I put the soap under the bottom sheet?’

“Sure enough, she had placed a sliver of ‘used’ soap under the sheet and voila, no cramps. That was six years ago and the only cramps I’ve had are when the soap dries out and I replace it doggone fast!

“Nothing had changed in my diet, lifestyle or bedroom, except the soap. To you skeptics, it may not work for you, so don’t do it; no need to rain on someone else’s parade unless you’re just plain mean-spirited.” T.J.

Skeptic Convinced Cramp Remedy Works:

There are lots of skeptics out there when it comes to soap stories. But sometimes even the skeptics are convinced:

“I have been suffering from severe violent leg cramps that seize up my muscles, usually the inner thigh but sometimes the calves as well. They cause me to cry out in pain, wake me up and make me walk/dance around for awhile until they finally subside. They also make my legs feel sore the next day, as if I had exercised strenuously.

“When I heard about the soap remedy, I was skeptical. All the same, I bought a couple of bars and put them between the sheets. Presto! No more cramps for about a month now. It does, indeed, defy logic but it works. Perhaps someday we’ll discover the mystery of why.” D. Levine

If you would like to read a more detailed analysis about the controversy over soap in the bed, Derek Page posted a thoughtful essay and a hypothesis about the possible mechanism on our website.

We know that soap will not work for everyone. People have told us they were quite disappointed when it didn’t do the trick. Neither mustard, V-8 Juice nor tonic water is a panacea. What works well for one person may not do anything for another. That is true not only of home remedies but also pricey prescription drugs.

We have created two products for people to try, “Bed Soap” and “Leg Soap.” Unlike regular bar soap, the People’s Pharmacy Bed Soap is bigger and flatter so it is not uncomfortable in bed. It also has a light lavender scent to help facilitate sleep (research has shown that lavender is a sleep promoter: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, June, 2014).

Soap in the Socks:

We have also heard from many people who put soap in their socks.

“The cramps from which I suffer travel no further than my feet and have at times been almost unbearably painful. Putting the soap inside each bed sock seemed a logical way of directly targeting the problem area (and I didn’t want to waste a drop of ammunition against these rotten little so and so’s!)

“Whether this hypothesis is ever elevated to the status of theory or is debunked and treated with scorn by researchers will not alter the fact that from the very first night I put soap inside my bed socks, I have been cramp-free.” G.N.F.

“It didn’t seem as though putting soap in my bed worked well for me. I wear socks at night, both summer and winter, because of cold feet. Every time, when using a sliver of any kind of soap in each sock, they keep the leg cramps away.

“When I have forgotten to do this, I have often had these cramps. Getting up and putting the slivers in my socks always stops the cramps within a minute or two. Otherwise the cramps may remain for long periods of time.” L.P.

“I noticed that Corn Huskers Lotion has a high glycerin content. When I get leg cramps at night after a day of vigorous exercise, I have rubbed this all over my legs, and the cramps go away. I let it dry and climb back into bed and am not awakened with cramps again that night.

“I keep soap chips with me in the car because I sometimes get leg cramps on my shins when driving. When I stretch my legs, the cramps just move to the unstretched part. When I put soap on the cramping part, the cramp goes away and doesn’t come back (I put it in my sock).” K.A.F.

We created Leg Soap several years ago to make it easy to get the pre-cut chips to fit smoothly into socks. We came up with the idea after we heard from a listener to our radio show who had restless leg syndrome (RLS). She suffered terribly on long international airplane flights and came up with the idea of putting soap chips in her socks to help her survive the long trips. That’s when we decided to make it easier for people by creating Leg Soap.

We are offering a special opportunity. For the next month, anyone who buys either Bed Soap or Leg Soap will get a free copy of Graedons’ Guide to Leg Pain. This $3 value is yours free with each order of People’s Pharmacy Bed or Leg Soap. In it you will learn about lots of other leg cramp remedies and special exercises to reduce the risk of muscle cramps, as well as nutrients like calcium, magnesium, potassium and B vitamins to prevent cramps. There are also details about the dangers of quinine. Finally, you will learn about various approaches to dealing with restless leg syndrome (RLS), the creepy, crawly feeling that can drive some people to distraction. More details about Bed and Leg Soap at this link.

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. Carole D.
    Palm Bay, FL

    I have suffered from leg and toe cramps off and on all my life. I remember as a child screaming at night and my mother coming into my room and massaging my legs. Like everyone else, I have tried many things over the years and FINALLY found something that works instantly for me. It is called CRAMP-Z Leg Cramp Relief and it is amazing. I just spray it on the cramp and rub it in with my fingers for a few seconds and bingo, cramp gone! It is 100% natural with the active ingredient being Magnesia Muriatica along with other trace minerals. I swear by it. While looking at the bottle just now I noticed that it says it also relieves RLS. I will definitely try it for that as well. Instructions says spray on each leg twice a day but since it works instantaneously I just use it when I have a cramp. Blessings to everyone who suffers from these horrible cramps!

  2. Linda
    Pittsburgh, Pa

    After reading all the above comments and remedies for leg cramps, I am definitely going to try some of all of them. Will write again when I find which works best for me.

  3. Josh

    I detoxed from alcohol and am now paranoid I have alcohol neuropathy. My calves and feet are cramping up so bad at night in bed that I involuntarily scream out. Obviously I need to see a doc, but I’m going to try some of these remedies in the meantime. Fortunately I love mustard and pickle juice. Tonight it’s that and some Aspercreme. I hope this isn’t permanent.

  4. Jan

    I have been having ankle cramps off and on since foot surgery a few years ago on one foot, and more recently on the other. They are excruciating, as you all know.. my doc recommended Hylands Leg Cramps which works like a charm for me, but I ran out last night and found this page while searching for remedies. Can’t do quantities of mustard or pickle, ugh lol. But I had a bottle of magnesium oil and it worked within a minute or so. Took half a dose orally and then rubbed it into both ankles, and was back asleep in no time. I did put a bar of soap in the bed too, don’t know whether it gets any credit but I was desparate.

  5. Don

    I found the resolve!! I use pure Magnesium oil and spray it on the muscle about 1 hour before bed and NO CRAMPS NO MORE!!!!! I went to the vitamin shop and the guy told me he gets them too and he uses the magnesium oil and it works, so I bought some and man what a relief. It has been a couple years now and I now don’t have to use it as much. The muscle now gives me plenty of warning that it is going to cramp so I just spray some and rub it in and just like that the slight warning cramp goes away. I have not had to use it now for about a month, but have it on hand just in case of another warning. It is important though that you don’t put it on after a shower because the salt in it goes into the spoors because of the hot shower. The spoors then being open absorbs it much faster and and it stings. also keep your underwear on when spraying….

  6. Stevie D
    Macon, Georgia

    I occasionally have calf and feet cramps. I was reading these remedies and comments in hopes of preventing a case of cramps tonight. Low and behold if I didn’t start giggling about the soap stories and caused myself a whopping foot cramp! I could not get any relief from spoons full of mustard, soy sauce, baking soda, or pickle juice (dill or sweet). I am one ingredient away from being a marinade! Then I slipped a bar of soap into my sleeping stockings and WA LA, I have seen the light. I just needed a bath.

  7. Donna P

    I’ve had leg cramps for years mostly in my calves. Then my husband and I were doing more manual work and getting hot and sweating and then we would stop for a bite to eat on our way home. I would get one of these thigh leg cramps like I am getting now and I would jump up so fast that people thought there was something bad wrong. The pain is so bad that I have to stand in one place and put pressure on my leg, while doing that I am moving back and forth in that same spot making a scene. I definitely get everyone’s attention. So what I do is kind of keep my head buried in the wall trying to get rid of the pain. When I am hurting that bad there is no way that I can raise my leg up to put any kind of medicine on the back of my thigh. I have to stand there and wait till it is over.

    OK so now, I am having these cramps again without getting hot. I have them in the middle of the day and at night before I even go to bed. They are miserable! I looked at all of the suggestions that you all have but when I am having one of these cramps I can’t make it to the refrigerator, I am lucky to make it to my feet and then to find a door or wall to lean against to try and stretch that muscle out and there is nothing fast about it either. I am almost in tears every time I have one of these. I feel for all of you.

    • Sharlimar
      Trinity County, CA

      My leg cramps are like yours, no way to make it anywhere, trying to stand, still cramping. Today is the first time that apple cider vinegar hasn’t helped. The several years I have been getting the cramps now finally caused me to get desperate. I now carry a small glass (old vanilla bottle) filled with the vinegar in my purse. I keep another bottle in the kitchen. I keep a bottle of seltzer water that has quinine in my car where I can reach it, but where I can cover it with a thick cloth so as to not bake it when we have hot weather. I have read (today) that people sometimes get bad side effects from quinine-so buyer beware. (I didn’t know this when I was given the quinine seltzer water, but I personally didn’t get side effects the one time I needed it). After reading today, I may drink a little less milk to reduce the calcium a little (still need it for bone density). My meds have potassium added so I will think of having some magnesium since I also read something about that. But I definitely don’t eat enough green leafy vegetables and I sweat a lot so apparently am needing to change a few habits. I would have just stuck with what works for me, but like I said, today the Natural apple cider vinegar didn’t work as it usually would.

  8. Peter

    Millions of people around the world are affected by night cramps in the legs. Me too. Tried everything such as salt, exercising, and heaps of other things. This also caused lack of sleep, leading to forgetfulness and fatigue.

    Couple of months ago came up with a simple fix. Since that date months ago never had to take any salt or do any exersise. Never had any cramps (Not once or at all).

    How? simply place a couple of standard bricks, one under each leg of the bedhead so am sleeping in a slightly raised position. If you want can place 2 bricks under each bedhead leg,

    Simple easy fix.

    A bit like years ago had heart blockages and was facing Bi-pass surgery. Someone told me about a simple mixture of lemon with peel, garlic sugar and water vitamised and mixed and taken over a seven week period (1 glass daily) all blockages cleared so no need for surgery.

    • Sharon

      I always keep pickle juice in my refridgerator bc it works for me 100% in 2 to 5 minutes and the cramps are gone! If my leg feels tense and I am afraid to go to sleep bc I might get a cramp in my thigh, I bring a glass of pickle juice to my night table so that I don’t have to be in extreme pain trying to get down the stairs to the fridge. It is the most excruciating pain I have ever experience in my life, especially when the pain radiate to my lower back and hip and then I cannot walk.

    • C

      What is the recipe, dosage you used for the no-bypass cocktail? Thanks

  9. Wendy Pryor

    Oh, thank God I found this site! I was in the most excruciating pain of my life tonight. I had a cramp in my foot going up my calf & then into my thigh, behind my knee. I’ve had cramps most of my life but never one that went into my thigh! I took the mustard & I found some V8 juice in fridge that I added extra salt to & so far so good! The cramp was so severe I could barely get on my feet. I was in tears. Thanks to all for this info.

  10. LaVerna

    As a diabetic I have suffered with severe leg cramps From my legs up to my sides I take a big tablespoon of mustard at night before bed and it helps With no mustard I used pickle juice and wha la! Some relief finally!

    The gabapatin I take doesn’t’ help my nerves so Im waiting on some other nerve medicine.

  11. Roger

    Half a banana works every time for me.

  12. Viv

    I sometimes have severely painful leg cramps in my upper legs at night. What works for me is anything that contains salt. I keep a bottle of soy sauce in the fridge just for this purpose. Soy sauce has a rather strong taste, but the pain of these cramps is so bad that I’ll do whatever it takes to stop them. When the cramps hit, I hobble my way to the kitchen and I hit the bottle! I take a couple of gulps of soy sauce followed by some plain water to wash it down with and relief comes very, very fast. I’ve also used yellow mustard and pickle juice and they work too. These all have one thing in common – they are high in salt which contains sodium.

  13. Johnnye

    It doesn’t surprise me to notice that many of these remarks were written in the wee hours of the morning! That’s when I am usually awakened with intense, excruciatingly painful muscle cramps in the backs of my thighs all the way down my legs to my feet. Usually massaging the muscles and standing up stretching for a few minutes will help, but not this time. I’ve been awake since 4:30 a.m. so (in desperation) I Google’d “fast help for severe leg cramps.” Thank you all so much for the suggestions. I took potassium, calcium and magnesium supplements washed down with a glass of water, ate a spoonful of mustard (more water), and if I had bar soap in the house (which I will get tomorrow) would try it, but I only have liquid soap. I’m warming my heat pad and will try lying down for a while with it under the backs of my thighs in hopes of another hour’s nap without pain (which has now eased). Again, thank you all!

  14. jack
    Tolar , Tx.

    I have had lower leg muscle cramps at night on and off most of my life. Often calcium tablets were enough to keep most away but as I got older I added magnesium and ten years later I added Potassium citrate. However , at 62, I started having upper thigh cramps for the first time ever. They are truly terrible ! I thought hard about them and realized It might be overall acidity since I had been drinking more coffee than usual and working later so I put 1/2 of a level teaspoon of arm and hammer baking soda in a small teacup of water and drank it about an hour before bedtime and it works !! But if I get to forgetting it the cramps return. I will jump up and hoble to the kitchen and make some up and drink it and in about 3 minutes I get relief and the cramps are gone ! You are blessed if you share this !!

  15. Ken
    Springs SA

    I have MS and suffer with cramps and RLS have tried all types of drugs, none of them work. I am going to try mustard and soap, will give you feed back

  16. Ann

    I have had severe leg cramps for years. The thing that works best for me is Aspercreme. I keep it at the bedside, and rub it on the cramp area. The pain is gone within a minute or two. I will try some of these other remedies.

  17. tom
    san antonio,tx.

    Thanks to all, am gonna try them all.

  18. Francoise
    Vancouver BC

    I use Leg Cramps ointment (Hylands), it contains aconit and stops the spams… a miracle for me… so painful and incapacitating.

  19. Sophia

    I started getting severe Charlie horses in my calfs at night, even when I was fully asleep. They would hurt so bad I could barely walk the next day. I prayed to our father in the heavens Jehovah because there is no cure/medicine to treat them and I was in so much pain at night. God answered my prayers!
    What worked? Elevation. Propping my legs up at night prevents them from cramping. I use pillows. And drinking a little vinegar mixed with a glass of water at least every other day can help too.

  20. Shelley
    Eastlake OH

    Before reading this my husband was having terrible thigh cramps to the point of tears, my husband is tough he never cries. I had made him a snack and add yellow mustard just because he likes it. Within minutes the cramping stopped. He is currently sleeping like a baby, it worked. Thanks for the remedy!

  21. Bev

    Thank u all for these home remedies! Hopeful I may actually get some sleep tonight!

  22. Floyd G.

    I have had cramps in lots of places but by far the worst one is the inner thigh! One night I had them in both legs at the same time…excruciating pain…made me make noises that I didn’t know I had in me. Several years ago I had heard about the soap in the bed from an older lady and at the time I thought “YEAH RIGHT” After experiencing that level of pain,I would try anything.

    I’ve had a bar of soap in my bed for about 5 years now and I have had only 2 of those cramps in those 5 years. It may not work for everybody but it certainly has helped me….go figure..just a bar of soap. When you experience that much pain you will try almost anything!

  23. Eden

    I have suffered from severe leg feet and muscle cramping on a nightly basis for the last few months, I have tried everything from essential oil’s to multi vitamins and muscle relaxants, but they have been cramping so bad lately that I started researching online for more ideas on what natural remedies might be out there when my medication doesn’t help. While I thought mustard was a little far fetched, I have been proven wrong.

    I woke up in tears at 2am with severe cramps from my hips right down to the top of my feet I took a heaping teaspoon of mustard and after about ten minutes it was much easier to tolerate. I don’t know if it was the mustard itself or the combination of getting up and moving around and getting the circulation going again but I appreciate the ideas and I will certainly be trying this a few more times Wishing you all the best and thanks for the ideas

  24. David

    I don’t know what’s wrong but for the last 3 nights I have been awakened by horrible leg cramps. Then I can’t get back to sleep for a long time. So now I’m sleep deprived but scared to go to sleep in fear of another cramp. A vicious cycle! So thanks for the good info. I don’t even have to go out to store since already have ACV, soap and mustard in the house so will try using them all before taking a long nap today, hopefully crampfree!

  25. Pilgrim

    Have leg cramps frequently at night. Have found that the product No Salt works immediately to cure the cramp. I simply wet the back of my hand with my tongue, place about 1/4 teaspoon on the wet spot, ingest it into my mouth, drink water sufficient to remove the salty taste and the cramp leaves almost immediately. No Salt is , I think , mostly potassium. Works for me every time.

    St. Louis Mo.

    Never called on Jesus soool much during leg, feet & muscle pain. Icy Hot works for small muscle pain but the BIG LEG/THIGH PAIN calls for STRONGER METHODS. Gonna try some of these remidies today/night..Thanks all cause my doctor had NO IDEA & avoided the subject..Got a NEW doctor.

  27. Gelly

    I have suffered from terrible leg cramps (calf & thighs) that can last for days and occasionally my hands will cramp as well. So, trust me this stuff works – Caleb Treeze Organic Farms – Stops Leg & Foot Cramps, 8 oz.

    The name seems hokey and ridiculous but it really does stop leg cramps in 30 seconds or less. I warn you now it tastes awful but put a cap of it in a glass of water if you can’t handle strong apple cider vinegar taste.

    However, if you are REALLY in pain, take it like a shot and within 30 seconds to a minute you will feel relief. You can even rub it into your leg for the truly awful ones.

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.