When I was pregnant with my daughter, I’d often awaken in the middle of the night with terrible leg cramps. I was already low on sleep, so these painful wake-up calls really got to me. That is, until my mother-in-law suggested I try putting a bar of Ivory soap under my fitted sheet.
I approached this suggestion with a healthy amount of skepticism, but as for everything else while pregnant, I did some research. What I found was post after post from people with restless leg syndrome (RLS) or leg cramps singing the praises of soap under their bed sheets.
According to a Twitter poll conducted by the TV show “The Doctors,” 42 percent of respondents found relief using the soap remedy. All evidence of using soap to relieve leg cramps is anecdotal and not backed by scientific research, but it is cheap and drug-free, so I decided to give it a try.
And guess what? It worked, I never had another leg cramp!
Reasons Why Soap May Help Prevent Leg Cramps
So, why do people think soap works? Like many home remedies, there are lots of theories about what to use and why it’s effective.
- There’s no consensus on what type of soap is best. Some have said Dial and Dove don’t work, but others swear by it. For RLS, Dr. Mehmet Oz suggests the use of lavender soap or other soaps with natural essential oils for the potential calming effect. Others use Ivory or Irish Spring.
- Some believe that the soap must emit something into the air that relieves the cramps. Many advise placing the soap under the sheet near the area where cramping is an issue and changing the soap out every three months or so to make sure it’s fresh.
- Soap can contain magnesium, so another theory is that it may help with leg cramps caused by magnesium deficiency.
- Still others believe it’s simply a placebo effect.
More Tips For Relieving Leg Cramps
Muscle cramps have many possible causes. According to the Mayo Clinic, these can include: dehydration, mineral depletion (calcium, magnesium, potassium), muscle fatigue, age, pregnancy and other medical conditions. If soap doesn’t work for you or you’d like to try other inexpensive home remedies there are a range of options:
- Stretch calf muscles before and after exercise and before going to bed.
- Drink plenty of water, especially while exercising or being active. Good hydration helps your muscles relax and feel less irritable.
- Take a warm shower before bed to relax muscles.
- Try eating a banana, avocado or other potassium-rich foods.
- Drink pickle juice. The salt, sugar and vinegar may help provide a quick replenishment of minerals lost when sweating.
As with anything, make sure to seek the help of a doctor if you experience extra painful or prolonged issues with leg cramps.
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