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A Funny Little Health Remedy that Actually Works – For Me

ATTENTION PLEASE: As I first noted at the bottom of this post, commenters may not recommend any medications including over the counter meds. I have just removed all references to magnesium - in a couple of cases, the entire comment regarding how magnesium works on cramps. It very well may work, but there are side effects depending on dosages and it can interact negatively with other meds. So the rule for this blog stands: you may not recommend in any way, any medication. It will be deleted.

Surely you have been hit with a charley horse more than once – that sudden muscle spasm in a leg, arm, foot, hand, fingers or toes that can cause excruciating pain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, age increases risk of muscle cramps because as old people lose muscle mass, remaining muscle can more easily become overstressed.

From time to time throughout life I've been afflicted with horrible muscle cramps. If in my legs and/or feet, I've found that walking heavily, putting a lot of extra pressure on my feet as I walk will help to a degree.

Most of all, however, the best remedy has been a hot bath – really irritating when a cramp has wakened me in the middle of the night and I just want to sleep.

Last Friday, I spent an entire day fighting cramps in my hands and fingers, toes and feet, arms and lower legs – all at once. It was the biggest, longest bout of muscle cramps I can recall enduring. The two hot baths I took helped for about ten minutes each.

The pain was terrible – it was towel-biting time to avoid screaming and it sent to me to the internet to look for information.

At the Mayo Clinic, Harvard Medical School, Medical News Today and some other reputable healthcare websites I learned that no one in the medical community takes muscle cramps seriously (“most muscle cramps are harmless”) nor do they know much about them.

Cramps can be related to rheumatoid arthritis, muscle overuse, dehydration and might be associated with such diseases as diabetes and nerve, liver and thyroid disorders, they say.

Assuming no underlying medical cause, the suggested remedies were nothing I didn't already know – stretch the muscles, drink more water, low-impact exercise and use correct hand tools.

Oh, please. By the time you have a cramp it's too late for any of those. I was screeching in pain so I expanded my internet search beyond the reputables. Here's one I found:

Pickle juice? Although I have a couple of jars of pickles in the refrigerator, I took a pass. Then I discovered the website of Dr. David Williams who is, according to the About page:

”A medical researcher, biochemist, and chiropractor [who has a reputation] as one of the world’s leading authorities on natural healing.”

Mainly, however, the website exists to sell his supplements and like the guy in the video, he touts pickle juice to stop muscle cramps within 60 seconds. I still wasn't convinced. (The link to Dr. Williams's website is for information only and does not endorse his products.)

He also says he believes a calcium deficiency causes cramps so recommends trying a different brand of calcium, and he also suggests DMSO. But I was in extreme pain as I read his webpage and I needed help right away so this caught my eye:

”A doctor by the name of Donald Cooper discovered a technique you can use to put a stop to a sudden cramp or spasm,” writes Dr. Williams. “He says it works 90 percent of the time. Dr. Cooper describes the technique:

"'At the first sign of muscle cramping, take a good, firm hold on the upper lip between the thumb and index finger, maintaining constant pressure. The cramping will stop or fade away, usually within 20 to 30 seconds, although sometimes it may take longer. I often pinch for a total of two or three minutes. Don't knock it until you've tried it.'”

“Oh pshaw,” she said to herself. But even though the cramps had been going on for several hours, I firmly grabbed my upper lip with thumb and forefinger.

And folks, to my utter shock and dismay, it worked. In less than a minute the cramping had stopped. When, ten or 15 minutes later, it started up again the lip grab did the job once more. And there was no more cramping that night.

To give you an idea of how severe the cramps were, my bicep and calf muscles still ache four days later although they're steadily improving.

I know this remedy sounds crazy. I don't want to believe it and part of me still thinks it is a coincidence or some kind of self-suggestion born of horrendous pain. But as weird as it appears to be, the cramping did stop, essentially immediately.

So strange.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I suspect some of you will have some odd home remedies for minor health issues that have worked for you. That's good, include them below.

But you may not claim cures for diseases or conditions, nor recommend any medication, prescription or otherwise, nor link to any websites.


Comments

Peoples Pharmacy has been advocating the use of pickle juice OR a teaspoon of yellow mustard to counter cramps for ages. Seems to work!

I would imagine that you've contacted your doctor about this, since what you describe sounds pretty extreme, and I would first wonder about a side effect of medication or a blood level/circulatory issue. I've never had any experience even close to as bad as what you've described here, and I think it might have terrified me. Kudos for being able to handle it as actively as you did and get through it. I am amazed.

I have very occasional charlie horses in my calves, but can usually stop them by rubbing my leg while flexing my foot. That's been about the extent of cramping issues for me, other than menstrual cramps, lo those many years ago. I...While cucumbers have magnesium, they may be higher in pantothenic acid, which I've also seen related to muscle cramping. Maybe cucumber water, with a little pickle juice chaser, might help as a preventative. I think I'll explore this idea a little further.

Accupressure point?

This took me back more than 50 years. My mother claimed that pinching one's ear lobe would stop cramping. My young self thought that was patently ridiculous and I promptly forgot all about it--until this posting. My 20-something self wasn't bothered by cramps, but my 70-something self will be sure to try both of these methods the next time my fingers, toes or calves twist up like pretzels.

I loved hearing about the lip trick though. I wouldn't mind betting that Eastern medicine could easily explain that in terms of meridians or something. There are all sorts of unlikely connections between different parts of our bodies that Western medicine doesn't know anything about. The next time I meet a Shiatsu practitioner or someone similar, I'll be sure to ask them about the lip trick.

I'm almost hoping to get leg cramps again to try the lip pressure trick. You can see that my experiences aren't anywhere close to the extreme pain you described. Thanks for the tip.

From The Harvard Medical School:
"There are a few other things you can do, however. Because cramps are often caused by dehydration, make sure to get enough fluids. But avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, which are dehydrating. (Don't mix gin with that tonic!) Stretching during the day or before bed may also help prevent them.

Once a cramp starts, getting out of bed and standing on the affected leg may abort it. Using ice or heat and gently massaging the affected muscle may provide some relief.

I've been using the "pinch above your upper lip" trick for 23 years now and it has never failed me when I get a Charlie horse. Best of all, I don't have to get out of bed, and I fall back asleep quickly. So glad to know that this pinch trick works for you, too, Ronni.

I'll have to try this the next time I get a bad cramp. Doesn't happen often but recently I had a leg cramp in the middle of the night that had me dancing around the bedroom for several minutes.

I've often used pressing on (not pinching) the upper lip to stop a sneeze. Not surefire, but often helps. My one foolproof go-to: a heaping teaspoon of granulated sugar to stop hiccups.

Works every time hiccup cure. Drink half a cup or more of water out of the wrong side of the glass. That requires bending forward, which compresses the diaphragm as one drinks. Lean against a wall while doing this if you have balance problems!

This is important for me, as my hiccups are measurable on the Richter scale, painful, loud, and used to go on for a very long time.

I use to get a charlie horse when I was pregnant. Now I get a cramp now and then.
Great info I never heard before. Thank you! Now maybe when my foot cramps up at night I have a cure.
Now if someone could come up with a cure for my toe that has the fungus thing going that would be great. LOL

Thanks for sharing this Ronni! Glad your cramps are gone...I try to drink plenty of water all day too.

Another hiccup trick:
get a glass of water, hold your breath and count slowly to 10, then without letting your breath out, take 3 sips of water. Works for me!

I've always been able to stop a charley horse by flexing my foot. One rather startling remedy I experienced recently was as follows: I had a raging arthritis flare in my knee, which the prescribed three ibuprofen pills didn't touch. A neighbor who has arthritis told me her pt suggested deep breathing--a long, deep breath and slow exhale through pursed lips. Immediate relief! Of course you have to keep doing it, but still. . .

This aging business is rather like being pecked to death by ducks! Thanks for the lip squeeze trick!

If it worked for you I absolutely believe it. Might be some kind of pressure point. Cramps are horrible. Don't k ow how you endured it for so long.

I’ll remember pickle juice and lip pressing next time I get leg cramps, if drinking a glass of water doesn’r ease them. Usually drinking water does. When that fails, I wrap the leg in a heated heating pad. I can get bad leg cramps; really bad ones hurt like everything. Ronni, I’m glad you found the upper lip trick. Thank you for sharing it.

Most of my home remedies involve a heating pad. Often using it under my back is the only way I can get to sleep. It soothes my achy shoulders and loosens tight muscles.

Picture this: dozens of TGB community members squeezing their upper lip this morning. I love it! This image made me giggle, and remember giggles does the body good.

I have been having very severe back spasms, the kind that all but stops breathing. I will try the lip thing. I do the deep breath and trying to relax.

I HATE sudden vicious leg cramps in the middle of the night.

But, when and where else can I practice my creative Kokopelli native dancing and my imaginative use of the English (and sometimes Spanish) language? My performances so far have only been marginally enjoyed by a lone captive audience - my husband.

Maybe I will get him to record me on his phone, upload to YouTube, hope it goes viral and Voila!...a Star is Born!


Thanks. I'll definitely try that, because I hate getting out of bed to stretch and walk out those very painful leg and foot cramps, especially in the winter. I try to avoid the cramps by drinking more water, eating bananas (my husband's remedy) and getting more exercise. One thing I've notice about the leg and foot cramps is they often happen after I've switched shoes for a day or so. It seems my feet/legs prefer the same old shoes day after day.

Love this. I get cramps in my chest and back muscles that wake me at night (copd, hard to breathe) and I've hot showered in the middle of the night to relieve them but I am going to try this, sounds like acupressure. Thanks Ronni.

I used to have leg cramps at night that had me up and walking them off. If the calf of your leg is cramping, straightening your foot is the first step. That pulls the cramped muscle down. This is rather painful and you have to stand up to do it by forcing your heel down to the floor. Then walking for a short time usually relieves the cramp.

Like Nan's husband, I found that eating a half banana (or more) a day prevents them and I rarely have a cramp now that I do that. I believe it's the potassium in bananas that does the trick. Like the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

First I want to say happy to hear the cancer isGone! My favorite word is remission,may it be yours as well!Re those all over cramps,I had them after chemo,worst painEVER!! Wish I had known of your remedy, next cramp in leg or armI will try it and say”thanks,Ronnie”!

Other than the placebo effect, I can't explain the success of the technique you described, but if it were a valid therapy that worked  "90%" of the time, you wouldn't have needed  to have found it on an obscure website. Everyone would know about it, and everyone would be doing it. I get cramps, and I promise you I won't be trying this the next time I get them.

Recently, a friend told me that a decades old chronic problem he suffered from could be cured by making a washing hands gesture over and over. He read about this on a website of an organization promoting the technique. Proponents of these ridiculous "cures" often rebut their critics with the argument that mainstream medicine suppresses these modalities, because there is no money to be made with them. Nonsense. If these things worked, their effectivenss would spread like wildfire (even before the advent of the 'net).

Kevin Trudeau, the former king of fraudulent late-night infomercials (along with Trump), and now in prison for many years for fraud made millions with infomercials for books touting crap like this with the titles, "What THEY [his caps] Don't Want You to Know About [fill in the blank with a disease]."

I suffer from leg cramps and have found three ways to address them. 1) when I drink half my weight in oz of water each day(eg. 150 lbs = 75 oz water), I avoid cramps. 2) [removed due to medication suggestion]. 3) When I have a cramp, I drink a can of coconut water (potassium) and the cramp begins to let go fairly quickly. My routine has made a world of difference.

Leg and foot cramps are the worst! So excruciatingly painful! It can take an eternity or longer for counter-stretching, walking, hot water, and other remedies, to take effect. If they even do -- sometimes I've just had to wait it out.

The one trick I've found that works in seconds is hyperventilating -- intentionally breathing much faster and more deeply than I normally would.

It might not work for everyone, because I suppose muscle cramps can have different causes, but in my case, it turns out that my muscles cramp when they're not getting enough oxygen. When I hyperventilate, it takes less than a minute for the oxygen-enriched blood to circulate to the cramping muscle, and I can feel it relax and let go. If I do it soon enough, right away, at the first warning signal, I can ward off a full-blown cramp.

The advantage of this remedy is that it's hands-free. I don't have to be at home. I don't have to get out of bed. It can be applied anywhere, any time, no matter what I'm doing when the cramp strikes. I could even use it while driving.

Of course, now that I have lung problems, hyperventilating is not so easy. I might give the upper-lip trick a try.

I will try to remember the lip trick the next time I have a cramp. The problem is that my leg cramps always happen in bed in the middle of the night when I am less than brilliant, so I hope I don't mix up the home remedies and rub pickle juice on the leg.

The pickle juice remedy is one my brother, the self-proclaimed genius, swore by for practically everything. He would stand at the refrigerator rudely drinking straight from a jar of my Mom's home preserved dill pickles. Even if I thought it would work, I would never humor him by trying it.

But the lip thing I can try. If I can remember it. If.

I've seen the pickle juice remedy at People's Pharmacy. I've also seen a bar of soap recommended at night in bed which I tried and didn't work. I am going to try the upper lip remedy! My feet get cramps but I think it's mostly due to being cold. Cold feet.

Placebo effect (and I say that with no negative intention because I think this is truth) is the most effective medicine there is. When I get cramps I tell them to go away and don't bother me.

I am guessing you are referring to the part of your upper lip under your nose. This is definitely an acupressure point and is tied into meridians as a previous poster commented. An LMT friend suggested "chucking" for leg cramps, especially usefully for charlie horse type cramps in the calf. You hold the muscle in your hands and move it up and down firmly and quickly. You can also "chuck" your scalp to help relieve a tension headache or upper neck tension. It is hard to describe, better shown, and is very effective for me.

One of my friends keeps some pickle juice by her bed at night. I took some one night but it isn't kind on gastric reflux I have. Aside from walking it off feeling silly walking around the hassock at 1 a.m. I will sit in my recliner and rock. Yes it rocks. If I can remember the lip pinch that will be next. :-)

But I also know I need to drink water. :-)

My yoga teacher shared the upper lip pinch a few years ago and I swear by it...but I do still have to get out of bed and walk around to help relieve the painful leg/foot cramps as I pinch my upper lip at the same time.... I have also noticed my intake of bananas as related to leg cramps...they bother me much less when I eat my daily banana.

The trick to relieve a sore shoulder or neck, etc. is to put a bar of soap, any kind, under your mattress pad....it has worked for me for many years. Some who have commented seem to want to make the lip pinch into a placebo but it is not a placebo, more related to body meridians, energy and, I believe, Eastern medicine.

Thanks, Ronni, and I was also touched by your good news a few days ago re your cure.

My father was a victim of terrible cramps and when he told me his cure I would laugh until I became a victim myself.

A pinch of salt on the tongue. About 60 seconds. And I read what was said about pickle juice and thought: it's the salt in pickle juice.

Must try that lip thing next time tho :)

XO
WWW

Commenters recommending pickle juice or bananas are probably on the right track for at least one of the most common causes and cures of these cramps: Electrolyte imbalance or insufficiency. Sodium (in the salty pickle juice) and potassium (in the potassium rich banana) are key to how muscles work. That's about all I know about muscles, but it makes sense that having too little of a given electrolyte can cause muscles to spasm.

Whatever works — upper lip pinching — pickle juice — but that trickster Kachina Kokopelli dancing sounds like a real winner to me! They don’t cost anything, unlike what snake oil salespersons charge for their concoctions, so try them all.

I will definitely try the lip pinching technique the next time I get leg & foot cramps.

My current solution is to take a potassium pill the next morning at breakfast. I think the leg cramps are my body's way of telling me it is low on potassium. About 2 or 3 days of potassium usually fends off the problem.

But I like your lip solution better.

Thinking about this further: Cramps are really two separate issues. There's the underlying cause that makes you susceptible. That's very likely a long-term imbalance of some sort, and adjusting your food and water intake in a sensible way may well ward off future attacks. But then there's the emergency -- when you already have a cramp, it hurts like the very devil, and you need it to stop RIGHT! NOW!

Look at how different these emergency fixes are. Salt. Pickle juice. Coconut water. Lip pinch. How can they all work? Maybe my hyperventilating trick actually does affect the muscles through blood circulation, but maybe not. Certainly nothing taken by mouth can possibly be getting through the digestive system in time to relieve a cramp.

And yet each one has people who will swear that it does work. That's evidence. It can't be brushed away as not valid just because the attached explanations don't make sense. Never mind window dressing about meridians, or energy, or acupressure. Something is actually happening, biochemically, in the body... both to trigger the cramp, and then to relieve it. What is it?

That's a complicated, scientifically interesting, question. I have thought of some plausible-sounding hypotheses that would be worth testing, but it looks like nobody's even doing research in the area.

Over the years, I've dealt with a few issues via over the counter supplements and/or physical therapy tricks. This would include cramps and sciatica issues. Then there are the cures from omission--removing drugs or substances that caused various issues--sensitivities or allergies generally--sometimes acute. Most of the latter were very serious physical and even emotional reactions. I am fortunate that I have the intelligence and resolve to have figured all this out, because my doctors have never independently helped with any of these ever. My stories put people to sleep but they are oh so very real and important to me. Good for you Ronni, that you found a remedy for your cramps. John

A trick I learned in a swimming pool full of 70 something people! Keep an unwrapped bar of soap, anything but Dove, between the top and bottom sheet of your bed. Haven’t had a leg cramp in six years, also haven’t had to replace the soap. It even works when traveling, never checked into a hotel that used Dove!

Not a cramp but I have an ankle that hurts especially when on my feet a lot. Husband was hanving knee or shoulder pain and he bought some Salon Pas,an ointment with a menthol medicinal smell. He used it said
it relieved his pain. Bah Humbug I said but a while later I used it on my ankle and after rubbing it in almost instant relief. I am now a believer and use it at least once a week

I had to return today to read some more of these interesting comments. It is fascinating to contemplate, as Sylvia says, what is causing and relieving these cramps. On the one hand, those who are getting up to drink pickle juice or put salt on tongues, etc., may be restoring some sodium balance, but how quickly would this work? How much does simply getting out of bed and walking to the refrigerator, thereby putting pressure on the foot and leg, and allowing for the passing of time for this resolve the situation, regardless of drinking anything?

On the other hand, those who scoff at meridians and pressure points may be missing the larger picture. More than 40 years ago, I had a friend who went into excruciating pain one night and was taken to the hospital. Even at the hospital, at that time (no high-tech equipment then) it took a while to diagnose the problem, because she was reporting pain in the upper body, mostly in the area of her shoulder, but it was due to something in an entirely different area -- an ectopic pregnancy! She had two school-age children and had thought she had put her childbearing years behind her. It was fortunate that she had gone to the hospital, because had her fallopian tubes ruptured, it could have been life-threatening. As was explained to her, there is a connection between the nerves in those distant areas. So, those who practice reflexology, acupressure and acupuncture and rely on meridians may all be relying on the same basic understanding of the vast network of nerves that is also accessed in conventional medicine.

OMG I am bookmarking this post, what a trove of remedies! Just shows how little western medicine really knows about how the body works. Not that western medicine is bad, it certainly works wonders in some areas, but there is so much else that it doesn't explain or help with. Old Wives Tales indeed.

I don't know where I heard about that remedy but I've pinched my upper lip to get rid of cramps for decades. I'm so glad it works for you too.

Good post! Something so innocuous is always worth trying. I don't understand Peter's wish to suffer cramps rather than pinch his lip, or his desire to be so negative about simple, non-risky remedies. I've used many - most recently using a different, firmer pillow behind my back in my easy chair to help with posture and body aches. It's helped, it's simple, so what's not to like?

Who wants to run to the doctor without trying something simple first???

I suffer from all sorts of cramps frequently. In the past, the bar of soap (wrapped or unwrapped doesn't seem to make a difference) in bed has helped. Who knows why? I'd found the suggestion many years ago when looking for solutions to the cramps. In recent years, tonic water (now always keep a bottle by my bed) and breathing exercises have helped.
I have never had anything like what you describe but from my encounters with cramps in different places your encounter sounds very similar to Inquisition-like torture.
Thank you for a very meaningful post that truly spoke to me. I am grateful for the lip pressure suggestion and will try VERY HARD to remember it when needed.

For those lucky enough to live with a significant other, a massage of the cramping area works well. However, it has been my experience that massaging a cramp yourself, wherever it is, only gives you cramps in your hands.

I awoke last night with severe big toe cramp (had walked in heels earlier in the day) and remembered the trick. So I squeezed my philtrum with thumb & index finger. The cramp dissolved in virtually a second or two. Thank you!!!

There is a lot of information on the internet about pinching the upper lip to stop leg cramps but unfortunately it is not common knowledge. Only a few doctors promote the pinching of the upper lip as an acupressure point but it is not excepted by medicine so far. It is not a big deal for me to stop many cramps including leg cramps. Please see the web site I have created to hopefully help people: www.stop-cramps.com And see my new way of stopping cramps just by pretending to pinch the upper lip. The say you can take a horse to water but...
Please give it a try. It does not cost money. If you find that it does not work you could go back to the acupressure point pinching the upper lip.

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