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Friday, November 09, 2007

Curing Leg Cramps with a Bar of Soap

 
Friday's Urban Legend: ALMOST CERTAINLY FALSE

Some people, who shall remain nameless, sleep with a bar of Ivory soap in their beds. Now why in the world would anyone do this? Well, it turns out that the bar of Ivory soap prevents you from having leg cramps at night.

I kid you not. People swear by it.

After a little investigation it turns out that there are just as many people who swear that it has to be Dove soap and not Ivory soap. Then there are those who say it can be any kind of soap as long as it's not Dove. Some people say the soap has to be in its original wrapper and others say it has to be unwrapped.

The snopes.com website hedges their bets on this one since there are so many people who claim that it works [Soap Dope]. On the other hand, they do list it under "Old Wives Tales."

I'm not so hesitant. There's no possible scientific explanation that could explain how a bar of soap would prevent leg cramps. It sounds like a placebo effect, at best, and an overactive imagination, at worst.


[Photo Credit Wikkepedia]

35 comments :

  1. Sounds like a possible Ignoble award research topic! Along with checking to see if Kansas is really flatter than a pancake (it is).

    > On the other hand, they do list it under "Old Wives Tales."

    I wonder how they did a representative sample of elderly wives...

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  2. Are you supposed to lie on the soap or something?

    P.S. Welcome to the world of almost certainly false! What do you think about stories of aliens visiting Earth?

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  3. People regularly get cramps in their sleep? I have experienced it once, when recuperating from a damage in a leg.

    On the claim; I guess it is barely possible that a hard object in bed would change your sleep pattern. motions or posture, which may or may not be beneficial in such cases.

    But I rather use soft and cuddly objects for that. :-P

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  4. I totally agree. That's right up there with the "rub gold on a sty" method of healing. It has to be a wedding band - no, it has to just be gold - no, you have go say some little verse before you rub. So many mindless rules, so little efficacy.

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  5. Comparing the ingredients in Bar Soap and Gator Aid used for cramps etc. you will find there are several types of Sodium in both. Including Sodium Chloride (SALT) The Electrolytes in the Sodium carried by the fragrance perhaps enter the skin (your largest organ) through the bottom of your feet (the main reflexology center for the whole body) Thus the increase of electrolytes replace those lost by diuretics or perspiring etc. So there you have at least one theory. Science not superstition perhaps.
    Friend had terrible cramps due to diuretics in her BP meds (loss of electrolytes) Gator Aid helped when she remembered to buy it. The soap stopped it for good though. Not one cramp since putting one bar in the bottom of her bed.
    Don

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  6. Make fun of me if you want, but I suffer from nocturnal leg cramps (as do many people). I tried the bar of soap after trying lots of other remedies (stretching, extra water, quinine, etc.)figuring what the heck? IT WORKED. Until one day it didn't. I thought, ok, that's that. But the soap had slipped off the side of the bed. I moved it back, and no more cramps. I don't care if you can't figure out the science of how it works, but I can tell you - it does for me, and many others I've convinced to try (after much skepticism). If you don't have leg cramps at night - hooray for you. If you do, give it a try - it just might work. I do not know if any brand is better than any other. I've used several. Do not ridicule just because you can't explain it...

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    1. In our newspaper was written by a Dr. He said he did not know how or why it worked but recommended it for leg cramps. I tried it and keep the bar of soap in my bed since. That was 9 years ago.

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  7. nets1000 is right. Unless you suffer from these horrible nocturnal cramps and have tried the soap, you really don't know. Yes, you DO lie on it (typically at the end of the bed)and it is not a placebo effect. It is the ONLY thing I've ever tried that actually keeps the cramps from coming or being full-blown. Just because something can't be fully explained does not mean it doesn't work - the proof is in the pudding. In this case that means no more cramps! Those too ignorant to believe it or try it if they do have notcturnal cramps are the ones to be laughed at.

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  8. I hadn't been sleeping well for weeks due to a recent break up and restless legs. My aunt suggested it, i laughed but tried it anyway. I slept good for months! since ive stopped my problems have returned, so im gettin back to it. I usually have an answer for everything, but i have no idea how it works!

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  9. It works. I have suffered for years. I didn't care if I had to strangle chickens while spitting quarters as long as the pain ended. It did and I don't care how. I was told it had to be real soap, not a 'beauty' type bar, and to change it every few months. As for placebo effect... you have to believe for the effect to work and I didn't believe, so that negates the effect. I tried it because my aunt told me to, and it's harmless. I will happily remain stupid and cramp less if it makes the naysayers happy. PEACE ;-)

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  10. I am an M.D - severe leg cramps. Many meds -none worked. Quinine water (tonic water) works sometimes - but, not to be taken lightly, can cause heart problems. Soap worked! Placebo? Fine. Who cares if it works - further if it works it is not a placebo- to be accurate, a placebo need be inert with the recipient not knowing the difference between the placebo and the "real thing". Hence, if soap works , and it did, it is not a placebo - at least for me.

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  11. instead of soap bars I just lather up till I look like the Michelin tire mascot and then hop into bed. Haven't had a cramp in years. come to think of it, haven't had a date either. Let's get real people.

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  12. I am 69 years old and doubt most things until I try them. I have had night leg cramps for a long time. The pain is worse than giving birth. Asprin helps but I don't want to take asprin every night. I tried the soap a year ago and it did work. My grandson saw the soap last month and put it back in the bathroom thinking it was a mistake. My cramps came back that night. A few days later I realized the soap was not in the bed and put it back. The next night the cramps were gone again. Now I make sure it is there before I go to sleep. I have no idea why this works but I swear it truly does. If you never suffered this pain, don't laugh. You just don't know.

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  13. Yes it works for me and my husband too....you can't hardly see the bar of soap....I thought it was funny also....I just use the kind I had...Pam

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  14. cramp-free for 3 months now!
    boy, do I love IVORY soap!

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  15. Well, call it wives tale or a placebo but it works for me. I've used several different brand of bar soaps, for me it worked. I used to suffer so bad with cramps in the thighs, legs, feet, stomach walls & sometimes the hands. I thought the cramps were from low potassium levels so I ate bananas, took liquid potassium; nothing worked. Then I started to drink Pedialyte for the electrodes, then I did stretching exercises, yoga, what ever I could to try and stop these cramps that would wake me up with terrible pain. I tried the bar soap out of desperation...and VIOLA!! As I said before, I could not care why or how it works, as long as it did. I am now cramp free. My motto: DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO.

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  16. My theory is... cramps are somehow caused by a lack of oxygen getting to the muscle. I'd gotten into the habit of hyperventilating to make them dissipate, and this had worked pretty well for me for my frequent cramps... at least for two or three decades til I read about the soap thing. I tried it the first night and like others, found as long as it was in the bed, it worked. If it fell off the side the cramps returned. Now my husband and I keep 2 or 3 bars in the center of our king size bed every night. (You don't have to actually have it underfoot!).

    So, I suspect the soap molecules bouncing around your air space acts as a lubricant and helps your lungs absorb more oxygen. I'm not so sure how much oxygen your skin can absorb, but I'm sure there could be some, but I think its more so thru the lungs that the "magic" is happening!

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  17. Old Wives tale or not, psychosomatic or not; It works.
    Those that dismiss the topic as trivial obviously have never been woken out of a deep sleep, 2 or 5 times a night, cursing and crying because their legs and feet have seized up.
    For those of us who have, a pain free complete nights sleep is worth a bar of soap. End of story.

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  18. I was a sceptic and used to suffer through frequent leg cramps until they subsided. When I heard about the soap trick I dismissed it as you do, but finally one night to stop the pain I agreed to try it... and yes it worked to my great surprise. Now I use soap everytime I feel the first cramp pains and they disappear ! Unexplainable for me but very effective...

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  19. Been using the soap for a while and it works. My wife was out of town last night and I was sleeping on her side of the bed. Got real bad cramps in both legs, and just rolled over to my side where the soap is. Cramps vanished! I also take a water pill for High BP and wonder if it causes an electrolyte imbalance that is regulated by the minerals in the soap? Perhaps the H2O in the blood conducts just enough electricity to do the trick? The effect is always immediate.

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  20. Yes to the above. Perhaps a neurological component could be easily found to explain this.
    A little like the frog's legs in Junior High? It might take some of the mystery out of "energy transfer" phenomena?

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  21. I was just as skeptical as most when someone told me about the soap remedy for leg cramps. I thought it sounded like some voodoo magic or something as such, & laughed. When I tried it (thought it wouldn't work, I mean, come on!) I was amazed. I think it depends on how old the soap is also, since it's due to gases released -- so make sure you change the soap every few weeks or so. Was having a VERY bad foot cramp & my foot was looking deformed, so I quickly grabbed a soap & pressed it to the foot, & you can SEE the foot/muscles begin to relax & the pain subsided. It was NOT psychological, it actually worked! If you find a soap that does not work, just try another. Irish Spring doesn't work as well for me as Dial, don't know why. Maybe it's due to different fragrances in combination with the gases... who knows. It's just very weird, but all you skeptics should try it if you suffer.

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  22. After having chemotherapy and currently taking tamoxifen...haave had leg cramps every night for past two years. A friend told me about the soap thing. I used the Trader Joe Tea Tree soap under my sheets in general vicinity of my ankles. Mycramps stopped that night and have not had another one in past two months...Baffled as to why this would work. All other parameters constant. Anyone know why this works?

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  23. There's plenty of scientific evidence for the placebo effect, though, right? If you have ever suffered leg/foot/muscle cramps at night, you really don't care how or why a solution works, or whether it's "all in your head" so long as it WORKS. :)

    I've very skeptical, as well, but have been trying it for two weeks. (I fell down the stairs and sprained my toe and finger over a stupid foot cramp - at that point, I decided I'd try this, stupid as it sounds, because it's better than breaking my fool neck. I have not had a cramp since. Don't know why, don't care - hope it's not mere coincidence!!)

    Hurts absolutely NOTHING to try, it's cheap, it's easy. What's the downside? You feel silly for about 5 minutes? Big whoop. I can live with it.

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  24. We in this household are two highly education, non-superstitious, scientifically skeptical people and we KNOW that it is 100% improbable that soap in one's bed can eliminate cramps. We get a good chuckle every time someone mentions it.

    There's only one small problem with our expert opinion. It's wrong. My wife suffered for years with sleep broken up throughout the night by leg cramps. Being quite sure it was an urban myth, but operating on the "can't hurt, might help" principle, she nevertheless tried the Dove soap trick. It worked instantly and has done so consistently, without fail, ever since.

    Frank, Burlington, Ontario

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  25. To claim that this soap cure is absolutely false, solely based on current scientific observation, is preposterous and would imply that we know all there is to know about everything.

    Let's not forget that the earth was once scientifically "proven" to be flat. Let's also remember that just as animals can hear sounds and sense environmental changes which humans cannot, there's a whole lot more going on around us of which we are unaware.

    We happen to know that the skin absorbs chemicals with which we come into direct contact, and that soap emits aromas that we can smell. Although we'd like to think we do, although soap is a manmade product, we do not know all there is to know about soap and all its ingredients. So, it conceivable that soap contains chemicals, good or bad, natural as well as synthetic, that the body absorbs and is affected by in one way or another and of which we are ignorant.

    A bar of soap under the sheets could easily emit chemicals, which are absorbed by the body over a long period of exposure unbeknownst to the bed occupant. If a large enough segment of the population claims that one of its side effects is that it cures leg cramps, then it appears that we still have much research to do and much to learn about soap.

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  26. To me its amazing how if its not endorsed by doctors or something gov cooked up..no one believes it. I for one use it our to MS and it works. Skeptics are only people that don't have any reason not to believe it. How you think your own families way back in the day dealt issues of thru body...thru home remedies. Also most of your scripts kill you slowly..not help you.Diabetic insulin eventually weakens your heart and puts you at risk for heart attacks. But as long as your Dr say its ok to take it..everyone fine with it..wake up medically anything that WORKS they will never admit too because of money.

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  27. I've had Type I diabetes for 40 years, and the cramps were coming almost every night, especially after swimming that day. I could not stretch in the mornings by pointing my toes; this would cause immediate charlie-horses. Even my toes were pulling against each other, or the bottoms of my feet would seize up. Then a guy at the YMCA said soap cured his mother's cramps, so I tried it. They stopped that night. He specified using unscented soap, so I used the Lever brand. I can assume any position in bed now with no fear. In two months, I've only had one near-cramp in my calf.

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  28. I have horrible leg cramps at night, and have my whole life. I have tried a variety of supplements and drank gatorade, and stretched before bed--everything. Nothing seemed to work. A few months ago, I had had about 2 weeks straight of waking up multiple times to deal with the cramps, losing up to 3 hours of sleep a night. I laughed when I was told to try this. But I had fresh bar of soap under the sink and a moron to prove wrong.

    The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off and I didn't have any cramps.

    If I exercise intensely, or wear high heels, I can feel the cramps brewing when I am at rest, like in front of the TV before bed. I used to dread this, because I knew that I was in for a long night.

    The cramps are gone. I haven't had a problem since. I use 2 bars, 1 for each shin, I move them around under my sheet sometimes--like if I wake up to a cramp brewing in my toes. I slide it down closer to my feet, and fall back asleep--and it never fully forms.

    I know there is no science to back it up, but I also know it seems to be working for now and it cost me near nothing!

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  29. Do it and you'll never have leg cramps again, but also remember it may not work the first couple of days, if you have them daily or should I say nightly.

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  30. My doctor told me, if it works then don't stop doing it, but he has no idea why it works.

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  31. Well i was doubtful, but desperate for some relief from the awful cramps in my legs that pestered me all night.I w,ould have to get up at least 5 or 6 times a night, get out of bed and try to walk off the cramps. Finally,I decided to try the soap remedy, and put some Ivory soap in bed with me. I was absolutely amazed that I was free of cramps the entire night. Since then I make sure that I have the soap in the bed. I don't know how it works, but it does, that that is all I need to know. I mentioned this to my doctor on my last visit, and he said that several of his patients had also reported relief from leg cramps. He now actually recommends that his patients give it a try.

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  32. No true scientist would ignore the anecdotal evidence of tens of thousands of people. You can't explain it, so you deny it. That's your right but please do not discourage someone who is in pain from seeking relief that clearly works.

    As for the placebo effect, dozens of people report that this worked when the bar of soap was placed in the bed *without their knowledge*. You're not being skeptical. You're in denial.

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    1. Well, that's interesting, creeper.

      So can you provide reference to a double blind placebo controlled trial that demonstrates this remedy works? That's the only reliable to way to determine if there is anything other than the placebo effect at work here. Anecdotes demonstrate nothing, even if they involved "dozens" of people.

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  33. My mother, an MD, has recommended it to her patients for decades and she swears it works for them. I am sceptical and would prefer to see the results of controlled experiments, but I don't quarrel with my mum. At any rate the belief that it relieves leg cramps extends to Poland. I wouldn't co,mpletely exclude the possibility that some volatile antispasmodic agent diffuses out of soap.

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