What exactly are muscle spasms? They’re involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. In other words, during a leg, neck or back spasm, your muscles cramp up and tighten without you even trying to move them, and they stay this way for a period of time because they’re unable to relax.
When most people think of muscle cramps what comes to mind are leg cramps. That’s because a “Charlie horse” can be super painful. The muscles in your legs are long and strong and when those muscles contract, especially in the middle of the night, the pain can be excruciating.
Terry Graedon and Joe Graedon from People’s Pharmacy explain how the humble soap can help you treat both leg and hand cramps, as well as a “scary throat spasm.”
Soap As A Cure for Leg Cramping
It has been years since soap was shown to be helpful in treating leg cramps that occur at night. People suffering from this issue have since been advised to place a soap under the bottom sheet to prevent the occurrence of nocturnal leg cramps. Even though you might find this remedy strange, once you try it, you’ll see how effective it really is, just like the many people who have testified its success.
In his article on soap’s effectiveness for treating leg cramping, Joe Graedon tells us of Derek H. Page and Hugh Smailes undertaking the task of finding out why and how soap helps to alleviate leg cramping. Their overall conclusion was that the fragrances (soap scented oils) or perfumes contained in soaps may be responsible for soaps’ effectiveness in the treatment of muscle cramps. According to their explanation, these substances reach the cramping leg by diffusing themselves in air and entering your body similarly like a drug enters through a skin patch. That is why they recommended using a soap with a stronger scent and placing it between the sheets, preferably in a place where the soles of your feet can touch it.
Furthermore, Graedon adds Dr. Ough’s research on soap’s effectiveness in treating cramps, the findings of which were published in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare (Sept. 2, 2008):
“…I assembled a skin patch made of crushed bar soap, and achieved successful results in regards to relief of muscle cramping and pain. I further experimented with the use of this soap patch for various other painful medical conditions.
“It was noted that the soap patch was successful in relieving pain from muscle cramps, knots, and even the trigger point pain associated with chronic myofascial pain syndrome. The soap patch also is effective for smooth muscle spasms, relieving the pain from menstrual cramps, intestinal cramps, and kidney stone.
“Hypothesizing that the scent of the soap was the active ingredient responsible for alleviating pain, I have since assembled the skin patches with a soap-scented oil (SSO), rather than bar soap itself, and hope to continue to expand its applications to other disease states…
“…I hypothesize that the active ingredient in the SSO skin patch is the scent itself. This would represent a new and unique method of medicinal delivery, because the scent is seemingly absorbed through the skin and not via the olfactory system.
“From these results, I conclude that the SSO skin patch is a safe and effective topical treatment for the pain of fibromyalgia.”
Bruce Bean, PhD and Rod McKinnon, MD and a Nobel Prize winner, made a very valuable discovery through years-long experimentation. They determined that the reason for the occurrence of muscle cramps is not dehydration or electrolyte depletion but overstimulation of nerves. By stimulating the TRP receptors in the mouth, throat and stomach with strong flavors, such as cinnamon, ginger, and hot pepper extract, they succeeded in relieving muscle cramps in legs within minutes.
For this reason, Graedon suggests that it is quite possible that the soap “cure” acts in a similar way by stimulating sensory nerves in the legs. Apparently, the skin possesses both olfactory (smell) and taste receptors. Therefore, the fragrance contained in a soap may produce a sensory stimulation, thereby soothing the nerves that cause muscle cramps.
Hand Cramping Can Also Be Relieved by Soap
It has also been suggested that the same method applies for hand cramps as well. That is why people who suffer from hand cramps have also found the simple bar of soap quite helpful. Moreover, there are people who always have soap chips with them to help them relieve pain and discomfort due to arthritic hips.
Here’s what a People’s Pharmacy’s reader wrote about his/her own experience with the soap “cure:”
“I tried putting a bar of soap under the bottom sheet and it worked extremely well to prevent foot cramps. One night I developed painful cramping in my hands. I got up and took another bar from the sink. Just holding it for a few minutes stopped the cramps.
From then on I’ve kept a bar of soap in an athletic sock tied off at the open end. I put the sock at the foot of the bed, under my covers and near my feet.
When I get hand cramps I just reach down and get the soap-sock and hold it for a few minutes. Once I get relief, I put it back near my feet. I use Ivory and change the bar every month.”
Soap for Throat Spasm Relief
Yet, it seems that the list of soap’s “magical” uses doesn’t stop here, as another People’s Pharmacy’s reader claimed that this simple ingredient helped him/her overcome a scary throat spasm. Apparently, a simple rub on the neck with a regular bar of soap can help relieve a throat spasm within seconds. This reader shared his/her story to help everyone who suffers from muscle spasms deal with them easily. Here’s the story:
“I have been sleeping with soap under my bottom sheet for years and have had no leg cramps since I began doing so. I also suffered for years from a terrifying condition known as laryngospasm, during which the vocal cords suddenly seize up and close when taking in a breath, blocking the flow of air. Although the spasm only lasts for a minute or two, the time seems to move so slowly that death feels imminent.
Once during just such a scary throat spasm, I rubbed soap onto the skin at the base of my throat. I hoped it would end the spasm, and it did! The laryngospasm eased within two seconds after I rubbed soap directly on my neck.
Ever since then I’ve worn a silver chain around my neck with a net pouch containing a small piece of soap. Because I made the pouch with pretty netting, I get compliments on my necklace. I always explain what it is and why I take it off only when I shower or go swimming.”
How Does Soap Work?
Apart from soap, common kitchen ingredients such as vinegar, hot pepper and mustard have also been used to successfully relieve muscle spasms. As Terry Graedon from People’s Pharmacy explains, all these substances contain powerful compounds that have the ability to “activate TRP (transient receptor potential) channels in the nerves,” thus triggering signals that “desensitize misbehaving neurons at the level of the spinal cord.” Therefore, it is believed that soap may act the same way as these other common ingredients do.
Although there is still no scientific body of research to confirm whether soap works its “magic” through TRP channels, its beneficial effects cannot be denied. That is why we are very glad that all of you who suffer from muscle spasms can control your problem with this easy and very cheap remedy, so don’t hesitate to try it as soon as possible.
Graedon, J. (2012, June 22). Why does soap soothe nighttime leg cramps? Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2012/07/22/why-does-soap-soothe-nighttime-leg-cramps/
Graedon, T. (2016, September 26). How to stop hand cramps with a bar of soap. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2016/09/26/how-to-stop-hand-cramps-with-a-bar-of-soap/
Graedon, T. (2017, January 30). How soap overcame a scary throat spasm. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/2017/01/30/how-soap-overcame-a-scary-throat-spasm/