The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Soap in Bed Keep Your Knees from Aching?

Some readers find that keeping a bar of soap under the bottom sheet helps keep hips and knees from aching during the night.

Do you have a way to keep your knees from aching? People with arthritis frequently rely on nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like diclofenac (Voltaren), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve). Although they may get short-term relief from such medicines, in the long term they may experience side effects such as digestive tract irritation, high blood pressure or kidney problems. Some readers have turned to nondrug approaches to alleviate their knee pain.

How to Keep Knees from Aching at Night:

Q. For some reason, the last two years my knees have been aching terribly when I lie down in bed. I have no pain at all when I’m standing, walking or sitting, just when I’m lying down. I figure it’s some kind of arthritis, but I really don’t know what is causing it.

Your soap remedy kept popping up in your newsletter, so six months ago I finally decided to try it for my knees. It was amazing! In one night, the pain was totally gone.

On vacation, I spent a few nights in bed without soap. Guess what? My knees ached again. So I bring my soap with me now. I replace it every time I need a new bar in the shower. I won’t sleep without it!

Soap in Bed to Ease Knee Pain:

A. We have heard from several other readers that soap can help ease arthritis pain temporarily. We don’t know how or why this works, although we suspect it has something to do with transient receptor potential (TRP) channels in the nerves that transmit pain.

That might explain why capsaicin cream and other arthritis rubs can be helpful as well. Activating TRP channels seems to be able to temporarily “scramble” the pain signal these nerves are sending (Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2018).

Learn More:

You can learn more about TRP channels and how they may help keep your knees from aching by listening to our podcast Show 1080: What Works for Pain Relief and Why. To get more information about soap and other unusual approaches to controlling arthritis pain in our eGuide to Alternatives for Arthritis. (Don’t plan to print this online resource, as it is very long. If you need a print version, order the book from our web store instead.)

If you are wishing for a nice flat bar of soap that is comfortable in bed, we can offer our Bed Soap. We think probably any soap will work, but ours is particularly well suited to slip under the bottom sheet.

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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. .
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  • Hung CY & Tan CH, "TRP channels in nociception and pathological pain." Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology, 2018. DOI: 10.1007/978-981-13-1756-9_2
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Can someone provide additional details for using a bar of soap for knee pain? Should it be wrapped/unwrapped ? Particular brand ? Where to place it in the bed ?

I save the slivers at the end of a bar of soap in the shower. Then I sleep with my socks on and one of these slivers pushed down next to the ankle. I’ve done this for years with good results

I use a bar of soap in my bed, and it WORKS!

Have been using a bar of soap at the foot of the bed for over a year. Used to have to jump up and walk off cramps in my legs, but now they are gone.

What technique would one use to try this remedy? Adhere the bar of soap to the painful area or just place it nearby?

I have read of the soap thing, but what I don’t understand is, where is the bar of soap placed under the sheet?

I have RA, and each morning I had to use one hand to unfold fingers on the other hand. I decided to try the soap, put a bar in a sock, and held it between my hands while sleeping. I have never had to “manually” unfold any fingers since. Like others, I have no idea how but it works.

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