Medical Mysteries

Gonna Soap That Cramp Right Outta My Leg

Written by Fred Hilton

Everyone has heard outrageous stories about weird home remedies that claim to cure certain ailments. The even weirder thing is that many of them work.


WRITER: FRED HILTON

For example, there’s the claim that “dirty socks cure sore throats.” (You put the socks around your neck.) Another one is “earwax cures cold sores.” (You rub the wax on the sore.) And these really strange ones: “corpses cure boils” and “urine cures acne.” (Let’s not think about these two, much less discuss them.)

Do these oddball treatments really work? No, of course not. You didn’t really think they might, did you?
But there is one current tale that sounds equally offbeat and actually seems to work—putting an unwrapped bar of soap under your sheets to cure leg cramps.

The idea was first published in the Ann Landers newspaper column and then touted by Dr. Mehmet Oz on “The Dr. Oz Show.” Dr. Jim Sears, of the daytime show “The Doctors,” conducted a Twitter poll and 42 percent of respondents said they used soap to alleviate nighttime leg cramps.

Medical Daily reports that “according to Andrew G. Kowal, M.D., a pain management specialist at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Massachusetts, the theory behind this home remedy is that a bar of soap gives off the chemical magnesium, which relieves you of leg cramps.”

The magnesium may be one answer for the curing powers of the soap. Another may simply be the pleasant odor. Dr. Oz believes the scent of lavender soap is relaxing and may be beneficial for restless leg syndrome.

It could merely be a placebo effect but, as The People’s Pharmacy points out, “it’s a remarkably strong one. Many people who have suffered for months, if not years, from painful, nocturnal cramps in their legs and feet have found immediate and long-lasting relief just by slipping a thin, innocent bar of soap beneath the sheets.”

The bar of soap isn’t effective for stopping cramps after a few months. Either replace it or shave it to produce new surfaces. The soap also should be placed close to the cramping muscle.

Snopes.com, an internet myth buster, calls the soap/leg cramp story “unproven” but admits there are reports of it working. “Perhaps this is a case of believing making it so—the soap itself has no effect, but the sufferer’s faith in the procedure serves to effect the miracle.”

Snopes adds: “Yet, skepticism aside, for those subject to nocturnal leg cramps, this bit of folk wisdom is clearly worth a try, in that the only potential downside is their having to share their beds with slivers of soap.” (Well, that and having their spouses think them a bit loony.)


Sources
“Why Does Soap Soothe Nighttime Leg Cramps?” by Joe Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy, July 22, 2012
peoplespharmacy.com/2012/07/22/why-does-soap-soothe-nighttime-leg-cramps/
“She Put a Bar of Soap Under Her Sheet. The Reason Why is Genius!” David Wolfe, davidwolfe.com
davidwolfe.com/bar-soap-under-sheet-reason-genius/
“Can a bar of soap between your sheets ease muscle cramps?” The Museum of Hoaxes, hoxes.org
hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/can_a_bar_of_soap_between_your_sheets_ease_muscle_cramps
“Can A Bar of Soap Cure Your Nighttime Leg Cramps?” by Nikki Tucker, Medical Daily, medicaldaily.com, September 5, 2012
medicaldaily.com/can-bar-soap-cure-your-nighttime-leg-cramps-242354
“Soap Opera(tion)” by David Mikkelson, Snopes.com, October 17, 2016
snopes.com/oldwives/legcramp.asp
“11 Outrageous Folk Remedies to Avoid,” by Diane Dragan, Reader’s Digest, rd.com
rd.com/funny-stuff/11-outrageous-folk-remedies-to-avoid/

About the author

Fred Hilton

Fred Hilton spent thirty-six years as the chief public relations officer/spokesman for James Madison University in Virginia and ten years prior as a reporter and editor for The Roanoke Times in Roanoke, Virginia. He is now happily retired in The Villages with his interior designer wife, Leta, their Cadillac Escalade golf cart, and their dog, Paris. (Yes, that makes her Paris Hilton).

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