Soap As A Possible Treatment
As the scientific basis for these conditions is not well established, the gap in knowledge may be filled by traditional beliefs, personal anecdotal experience, and alternative medicine.
Television programs like Dr. Oz and The Doctors have discussed the use of soap to relieve these conditions. It is a popular topic in discussion forums and comment threads. But in reviewing the topic, there is little research accessible: only a single case series evaluating a soap-scented skin patch for use to treat cramps related to menstrual periods.
There is no clear rationale for placing a bar of soap in the bed as a means to treat either restless legs or leg cramps.
Some suggest that the soap somehow changes the chemistry of the legs, perhaps through the transfer of ions from the soap to the nervous system. As a general rule, our bodies do not work by osmosiswe cant simply absorb humors from a bar of soap placed near us in bed.
The suggestions to put it at the foot of the bed, under the sheet, or even in a sock, reveal inconsistencies that undermine any rational basis for the remedy. How could soap in a sock work just as well as a bar placed beneath a sheet or one that is cradled between your lower legs?
Is Restless Legs Syndrome Underdiagnosed Or Overhyped
Many websites and print articles describe RLS as common, underdiagnosed, and undertreated, encouraging people who experience the unpleasant condition to seek medical help.
But a 2006 Public Library of Science article, Giving Legs to Restless Legs: A Case Study of How the Media Helps Make People Sick, makes the case that RLS has been overhyped by drug-company marketing campaigns. They write: For some people, symptoms are severe enough to be disabling. But for many others with milder problems, these symptoms are just the transient experiences of everyday life.
Magnesium: The Hidden Ingredient
Some people with RLS say a simple bar of soap placed under a fitted sheet helps with their symptoms.
The relief may come from one common ingredient: magnesium. Many commercial bars of soap contain this mineral to help soothe the skin.
Magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral that is needed for overall metabolic function. Some research has shown that magnesium in food has declined over the years. Some studies have found that many people with chronic conditions have a magnesium deficit.1
One theory is that the magnesium in the soap is absorbed into the skin throughout the night. The magnesium may then help relax the muscles of the legs, improving some of the symptoms associated with RLS.2
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Tune Out Before Bedtime
Tune in to Better Sleep
To really get a handle on restless legs syndrome, you need to practice good sleep hygiene. This involves both adopting behaviors that are conducive to getting a good night’s rest and adjusting the physical environment to promote slumber. Sleep experts agree it’s not a good idea to have TV in the bedroom, especially if you have trouble sleeping. The bed should only be used for sleeping or sex. Watching TV, reading, or doing other similar activities in bed may promote unwanted nighttime wakefulness. Keep TV out of the bedroom and avoid watching TV, especially upsetting or action-packed shows, too close to bedtime.
Blue Light Is Bad
In addition to TV being too stimulating before bedtime, there’s another reason to avoid screen time. Blue light emitted by TV screens, computer screens, and screens of cell phones and tablets disrupts hormones that promote sleep. Minimize your exposure to screens that emit blue light in the evening to get your 40 winks and reduce the possibility of further issues.
Restless Legs Syndrome Causes
Doctors donât know what causes most cases of restless legs syndrome, but your genes might play a role. Nearly half of the people with RLS also have a family member with the condition.
It might also be tied to:
- Chronic diseases. Certain long-term medical conditions include RLS symptoms, including iron deficiency, Parkinsonâs disease, kidney failure or renal disease, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy.
- Medications. Some drugs might make symptoms worse, including anti-nausea meds, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications that have antihistamines.
- Pregnancy. Some women have RLS during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. Symptoms usually go away within a month after delivery.
- Lifestyle. A lack of sleep or another sleep disorder like apnea can trigger symptoms or make them worse. So can alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use.
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A Bar Of Soap For Rls: Myth Or Reality
Like many common remedies, this one may hold some truth. Soap bars contain magnesium, which has shown to relax the muscles and soothe cramping that occurs with RLS. Soap also has a scent that may be helpful for improving sleep and pain.
However, this remedy is not proven. In other words, the soap may or may not help with RLS. Studies that have shown possible benefits have not shown dosing, administration, or placebo results. This is why this remedy is not considered evidence-based.4
Ask your doctor about this and other home remedies that may be helpful in managing your symptoms of RLS. What is helpful in one person may not be in others, but having the conversation may be the key to finding what works best for you.
Interested in reading more about lifestyle changes for symptom relief? Explore our featured collection on lifestyle changes and alternative treatments for RLS.
An Update On Derek And Hughs Hypothesis:
Several years ago an anesthesiologist by the name of Dr. Ough actually did some research on soap to relieve cramps. At that time he was working at Beloit Memorial Hospital in Beloit, Wisconsin. He reported his findings in the Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare :
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 , 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.
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Repel Pests In The Garden
If you have deer, rabbits or other unwanted guests in your yard or vegetable patch, you might be able to deter them with a bar of Irish Spring or two. Slice the soap into half-inch cubes. Fill several pouches with the cubes and attach the pouches to wooden stakes. Place the stakes around your garden to ward off pests, who dislike the scent. Alternatively, you could just place the pouches on the ground around your yard.
Treatment Of Restless Legs Syndrome In Children
The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved any medication for treating restless legs syndrome in children. The long-term effects of treating children with medication approved for adults are unknown.
Benzodiazepines, such as clonazepam, are not recommended for children because they can increase the risk of collapse of the upper airway. Up to 20 percent of children taking levodopa and carbidopa develop a side effect of feeling nauseous.
Good sleep habits are recommended for treating restless legs syndrome in children, as is avoiding caffeine and antihistamines. Vitamin and mineral supplements may help, when taken in consultation with a doctor.
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Deep Breathing Can Help
Stress and Restless Leg Syndrome
As with many medical conditions, stress aggravates restless leg syndrome and makes things worse. Stress is associated with higher levels of cortisol and other inflammatory markers, all of which aggravate RLS. Successful restless legs syndrome treatment incorporates stress reduction techniques. Thankfully, there are many ways to combat stress, all of which may help your RLS.
Less Stress Success
Everyone should incorporate stress reduction practices into their daily routine. If you have a condition that is worsened by stress, it’s even more important to make an effort to reduce stress levels. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can very quickly activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of the nervous system that is responsible for the “rest and digest” functions of the body. Mindfulness meditation is easy to learn and promotes reduced stress and lower levels of inflammation. Listening to soothing music is a nice way to unwind and distress at the end of a long day.
A Bar Of Soap Under Sheet May Relieve Restless Legs
I am a nurse, and I have secretly put soap under the sheets of patients who struggle with restless leg syndrome . They all tell me the only nights that they get sleep and wake up feeling rested is when I am on duty. The other nights they are miserable and their sleeping meds don’t work.
I use soap under my sheets at home, too, and I don’t wake up with a charley horse or pain anymore like I used to. I don’t know why or how soap works against leg cramps or RLS. I’m just glad it does.
We, too, cannot explain why a simple bar of soap could help. One reader wrote: “My husband has suffered with horrible leg cramps for years. They often woke him up three or four times a night. He tried everything imaginable without any relief.
“I was afraid he would think I was crazy to recommend soap, but he said he would try anything if there was a chance it would help. We have been using the soap for about a year, and it is a miracle for us.
“When the doctor wanted to know why my husband wasn’t complaining about leg cramps anymore, we mentioned the soap. I know the doctor thought we were nuts, but we don’t care. Until the soap, my husband hadn’t slept a full night without leg cramps for 10 years.”
Ten years ago, my mom moved in with us. She was 87 and not getting around well anymore. Her blood pressure was high, and the meds she was taking weren’t helping, and she had a stroke three weeks later.
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Avoid These Before Bed
When it comes to what not to consume, Dr. Berkowski lists the four things you should avoid to help ease your RLS symptoms:
These products are all known to trigger RLS symptoms, Dr. Berkowski says.
Additionally, if you have wheat or dairy allergies but still consume those products, that could also be a source of trouble. What and dairy allergies can cause inflammation which, in turn, cause issues with iron absorption, says Dr. Berkowski, so its something to keep in mind.
Maintain A Consistent Bedtime
Having a Routine Helps
Everyone, regardless of whether they have restless leg syndrome, slumbers better when they go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day. The body functions best when we stick to a schedule and have a predictable routine. Maintaining consistent sleep and wake times helps minimize fatigue and reduces your chances of experiencing the exhausting problems associated with this disorder. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours per night, or more if you need it. Then prioritize your life so you get the snooze time you need to keep restlessness at bay.
Helpful Bedtime Practices
Certain activities will help you drift off more easily. Sipping a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, and reading a relaxing book can help you wind down and fall asleep. Avoid reading anything too stimulating. Indulging in complex or frightening reading before bed may not be helpful. Another health tip is to avoid emotionally charged conversations in the evening. Emotional upset may prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep.
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Soap Scented Oil : The Magic Molecules
After generating this hypothesis, we took a careful look at the list of ingredients on a package of soap, and we found only one possible source of small molecules of a volatile compound: the fragrance. Nearly all soaps contain fragrances or perfumes. Certainly those mentioned in the anecdotal evidence do. And what perfumes are used in soaps? Thats generally top-secret information, held close to the vest by soap manufacturers. But we do know that most soaps contain esters and oils, such as carrot oil and lavender oil . These compounds are vasodilators. Like the ester nitroglycerin, which is used to alleviate pain caused by angina, they enlarge blood vessels.
The quantity of perfume transmitted to the skin may be small, but it appears to be enough to dilate blood vessels and prevent cramps. We know, of course, that the small, mobile molecules in the fragrances of soap diffuse through its gel to the surface and evaporate. We know because we can smell them. And when you score an old bar of soap, you can smell it all over again, just as strongly as when you first took it from its paper wrapper.
Weighted Blankets Can Reduce Prickly Feeling And Anxiety
A weighted blanket can offer a constant but gentle counterstimulation to override the feeling of restless legs.
Theres one more reason to suspect weighted blankets might help, Dr. Vensel-Rundo says.
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Soap For Hand Cramps:
Many people have told us that when they get hand cramps they can interrupt them quickly by holding a bar of soap. Here is a link that describes this exact scenario.
We recognize that this is all a hypothesis rather than proof positive. But we think that nerve stimulation represents a plausible explanation and enhances the theory that Derek and Hugh offer at the top of this article.
What do you think? Have you experienced quick cramp relief from mustard, pickle juice or tonic water ? If so, we are convinced that you are activating TRP channels in your mouth, throat and stomach that affect your spinal column. That turns off the misfiring nerves next to your cramping muscles.
Has the soap trick worked for you to prevent muscle or leg cramps? Share your experience below in the comment section and let us know what you think of our revised theory. At the time of this revision there are over 400 comments. Why not take a moment to read some of them and add your own.
Revised: by Joe Graedon, 9/28/17
By the way, we have added extra limonene to our Bed Soap. Here is what people say about this product:
Donna Jo in North Carolina states:
It has really helped my RLS after I go to bed.
Lucille in Texas shares:
I like it and so does my husband. He uses it for restless leg and I for cramps. So far, it seems to work. Better than anything else I have tried.
Cheryl in Richmond, Virginia loves Bed Soap:
Orgasms May Be A Cure For Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome describes a condition that causes individuals to lose sleep because they feel the need to move their legs at night. A letter published in the medical journal Sleep Medicine finds that one way to relieve symptoms of RLS may be to partake in some bedtime fun with your partner, according to AOL News.
The letter, penned by Luis Marin and his colleagues at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, outline a specific case of one man who sufferedfrom RLS, and found that his restlessness was alleviated by climaxing.
The patient reported that he would get complete relief from RLS symptoms, granting him normal sleep following sexual intercourse or masturbation, reads the letter.
The researchers findings have found some support. Dr. Mark Buchfuhrer, a sleep specialist in California, told the news source that he had encountered almost two dozen patients who have made similar claims.
This isnt the only study that has linked a good nights sleep with sex. A survey of doctors conducted by Crampex found that one out of six medical professionals recommended slipping on a condom, slathering on personal lubricant and doing the nasty to aid sleep, according to The Telegraph.
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The Following Hypothesis Was Contributed By Derek H Page And Hugh Smailes:
Several years ago, the advice columnist Ann Landers raised a provocative question in her column: does soap at the foot of the bed cure night-time leg cramps? The consensus in the medical community is no: there is no conceivable mechanism by which it could, so any relief derived from this procedure must be due to the placebo effect. In other words, its all in the mind.
But if it is indeed a placebo effect, its 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. Some even report relief although they were unaware that a bar of soap had been snuck into bed.
Likewise, others whose cramps have mysteriously returned have been nonplussed until they later discover that their bars of soap have fallen from the bed. From the point of view of those who, like us, are trying to solve this mystery, it is fortunate that several websites have maintained reports of this unusual treatment and its results.