Putting soap under the bottom sheet to ward off nighttime leg cramps strikes many doctors as extremely improbable. We admit we were skeptical at first ourselves. Then we tried it. We also heard from hundreds of readers who tested this unlikely home remedy. Many of them reported that it offered benefit for leg cramps.
How Does Soap Help?
Since the first reports on this remedy, people have come up with possible explanations for why soap might have benefit for leg cramps. Most are based on the compounds that give the soap its pleasant smell. These agents are released from the soap and can be absorbed through the skin. They appear to help muscles relax (Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, Sep. 1, 2008).
One reader has found that an aromatherapy mister has a similar benefit for leg cramps.
Aromatherapy Mister to Ease Leg Cramps:
Q. I read your recent column about the aroma in soap being the secret cure for leg cramps. It dawned on me that I haven’t been experiencing leg cramps or foot cramps at night for the past six weeks. This coincides with my recent purchase of an aromatherapy mister that I use at night in the bedroom with essential oils, e.g., lavender, tea leaf, lemon grass, eucalyptus and sweet orange.
I used to get cramps almost every night so painful that they woke me with severe excruciating pain.
I got the mister because I like the smell but maybe it’s the reason the leg and foot cramps have abated. If so, that’s a great benefit. I’ll try the bar of soap when I travel and don’t have the mister with me.
Easing Nighttime Leg Cramps:
A. Thanks for sharing your secret. Other people with nighttime leg cramps might want to try it. We offer many other recommendations, from pre-bedtime stretches to mineral supplements, in our Guide to Leg Pain.
Responses to cramp remedies seem to be highly individual, so a person who is regularly awakened with a painful leg cramp may need to try a few to find the best one. You can also read more about the aroma hypothesis for soap’s benefit for leg cramps here.