How To Us a Bar of Soap for Leg Cramps (And Better Sleep)

Waking up from a really bad dream is awful, but waking up thanks to a splitting pain in your leg? Yeah, so much worse. Anyone who has ever experienced a charley horse—aka, the cramping you feel when your calf muscle decides to take on a life of its own with a hard-to-soothe muscle spasm—would do just about anything to prevent it from ever happening again. The good news is there are indeed solutions worth trying—one of which is simply using a bar of soap for leg cramps.

Before you try to fix the cramping problem, though, it’s important to first get to the bottom of why it might be happening in the first place. According to the Cleveland Clinic, there are a handful of causes behind the pesky charley horses, including dehydration, not getting a proper balance of electrolytes in your diet, not stretching enough, exercising too much, and having poor circulation. But, aside from upping water intake and eating more bananas, there’s a pretty unsuspecting treatment option available to you, including using a bar of soap for leg cramps.

It might sound a little out there, but putting a bar of soap between your sheets, down by your legs may rid you of those pesky leg cramps.

It might sound a little out there, but putting a bar of soap between your sheets, down by your legs may rid you of those pesky leg cramps, according to ample anecdotal evidence. And while there’s some quasi-related research to back up the claim, the correlation isn’t a slam dunk. For instance, in a 2008 study published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, one researcher had a small number of participants—all of whom had consistent muscular pain and spasms—use some soap-scented oil on a patch of skin. The relief came pretty much immediately and lasted between 18 and 30 hours, giving them more restful sleep with no side effects.

As of right now, there isn’t much insight available as to how soap can rid people of leg cramps, except for findings from a study published in the European Journal of Pain, which notes the ingredient limonene—a fragrance commonly found in soap—could stop the pain.

Regardless, you might just want to give the solution a try for yourself, because, as one doc essentially puts it, why not? “I divide medical treatments into two categories: those that may or may not work but carry some risk, and those that may or may not work and carry no risk,” says Jordan D. Metzl, MD, a New York City–based sports medicine specialist. “Whether or not a bar of soap is medically valid, the key from my perspective is that it can’t hurt you—and it certainly can’t hurt to give it a try.” Given that trying a bar of soap for leg cramps is indeed a super low-risk option that packs anecdotal votes of confidence, there’s not much to lose. Even Harvard Medical School recommends giving the treatment a shot, despite the lack of scientific hypothesis explain how it works (or doesn’t).

Ultimately, if you want to fall asleep with the soothing scents of soap and possibly get some relief, try it out. Considering the claims of its effectiveness and low cost, you don’t have much to lose.

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