Don’t soft soap this home remedy

Soap proves to be a fantastic remedy for restless legs, writes our columnist Claudette Sandecki

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” may hold with the promise of financial investments, but thankfully it doesn’t apply to what at first seems like a hocus pocus treatment for restless legs.

At least not in my case.

For years I’ve lain awake hours every night trying to relieve leg cramps, pumping my legs up and down like a frog. Massage helps … for a few minutes. Basting my legs and feet with a mixture of two drops of rosemary oil in a quarter cup of Crisco oil as a carrier brought excellent relief when I used it but I gave it up because of its messiness. I had to wear socks even in hot summer weather to protect the bedding from my oily feet.

But recently a friend sent me an email titled, “Why Does Soap Soothe Nighttime Leg Cramps?”

Page after page of anecdotal testimonials swear by the benefits of a plain bar of soap. Dial, Dove, Irish Spring, Palmolive. All brands work equally well, wrapped or unwrapped, whether touching the skin of the feet or not.

Diabetics or others with foot neuropathy report good pain relief from a bar of soap between their sheets.

Apparently doctors generally pooh-pooh the notion an ordinary bar of soap can have any curative powers. They chalk up anecdotal evidence of soap’s benefits to some placebo effect, despite many patients reporting soap helps them. Some placebo effect!

September 21, the day I received the email, I slipped two bars of wrapped Jergens soap between the sheets near my feet. For the first time in months, maybe years, I slept soundly. Nightly I have continued to sleep soundly except when I’m chasing the soap like a goalie. The bars tended to slip to one side until they fell to the floor, Thump!, several times a night. By sliding the soaps into a pillowcase positioned under the bottom sheet the soap no longer falls to the floor;  the bars stay near my feet.

Even if coffee keeps me awake for an hour or two and I read until drowsy, my legs remain comfortable and still and I am able to fall asleep quickly once I close my book.

In an effort to explain how soap might work, Dr. Derek H. Page, a retired physicist from Quebec, and Hugh Smailes of Australia offer this hypothesis:

Soap is a water-swollen gel, 5 to 15 percent water when purchased, very porous, so water molecules disperse through it. They credit an unknown molecule with suppressing cramps just as a drug is transmitted through your skin by a patch. When the soap’s surface dries out, small molecules can no longer pass through it. Scraping or scoring the bar’s surface revives its beneficial effects.

Soap fragrances contain esters and oils; these compounds are volatile or we couldn’t smell them. And like nitroglycerin which enlarges blood vessels alleviating angina – these compounds may be responsible for the beneficial effects of a plain bar of soap next to or close to the skin of people with restless legs.

To those few patients who haven’t benefitted  from the soap treatment, Dr. Page and Smailes suggest they persevere, try a different soap with a stronger scent, and scrape its surface to release even more fragrance.

You might try searching the internet, or this website to see if there’s a brand others have had good luck with. The fresh, unwrapped bar of soap should then be placed between the sheets, preferably in a location where the soles of your feet can touch it.

Scientists may seek to prove or disprove the effectiveness of a bar of soap but restless leg sufferers are already convinced.

Claudette Sandecki gets a leg up on a good night’s sleep at her Thornhill home.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Terrace city council are reaching out to the B.C. Office of the Ombudsperson regarding councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller’s resignation on Feb. 22, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
City of Terrace seeking ombudsperson investigation into allegations of systemic racism

Councillor Jessica McCallum-Miller resigned Feb. 22, citing racism

A large provincial grant will make cycling and walking safer in Terrace. (File photo)
Large grant to make walking, cycling safer in Terrace

Pathway will connect old Skeena Bridge to the downtown

Design work continues for planned new hospital

Construction contract still in the works

The Terrace municipal council in 1974. Front row, left to right, alderman E.F. Clift, Mayor Gordon Rowland, alderman H.M. Buncombe. Back row, left to right, alderman R.A. Green, alderman M.J.G. Duffus, alderman N. Jacques and alderman C.D. (Dave) Maroney. (City of Terrace photo)
Former Terrace mayor passes away

Gordon Rowland was mayor during the 1970s

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

A new survey has found that virtual visits are British Columbian’s preferred way to see the doctor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Unsplash)
Majority of British Columbians now prefer routine virtual doctor’s visits: study

More than 82% feel virtual health options reduce wait times, 64% think they lead to better health

Captain and Maria, a pair of big and affectionate akbash dogs, must be adopted together because they are so closely bonded. (SPCA image)
Shuswap SPCA seeks forever home for inseparable Akbash dogs

A fundraiser to help medical expenses for Captain and Maria earned over 10 times its goal

The missing camper heard a GSAR helicopter, and ran from his tree well waving his arms. File photo
Man trapped on Manning mountain did nearly everything right to survive: SAR

The winter experienced camper was overwhelmed by snow conditions

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen, all 20, drown in the Sooke River in February 2020. (Contributed photos)
Coroner confirms ‘puddle jumping’ in 2020 drowning deaths of 3 B.C. men

Cory Mills, Eric Blackmore and A.J. Jensen pulled into raging river driving through nearby flooding

Castlegar doctor Megan Taylor contracted COVID-19 in November. This photo was taken before the pandemic. Photo: Submitted
Kootenay doctor shares experience contracting COVID-19

Castlegar doctor shares her COVID experience

Ashley Paxman, 29, is in the ICU after being struck by a vehicle along Highway 97 Feb. 18, 2021. She remains in critical condition. (GoFundMe)
Okanagan woman in ICU with broken bones in face after being struck by car

She remains in serious condition following Feb. 18 incident

The booklet roots present day activism in the history of racist policies, arguing the history must be acknowledged in order to change. (CCPA)
New resource dives into 150 years of racist policy in B.C.

Racist history must be acknowledged in order to change, authors say

The BC SPCA is offering many chances for school-aged kids to learn about animal welfare and other animal topics. Pictured here is Keith, a three-month-old kitten seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
From pets to wildlife, BC SPCA offers animal education programs geared to youth

BC SPCA offering virtual spring break camps, workshops and school presentations

Most Read