Soap? Mustard? Readers offer up curious collection of cures for cramps

Publicly sharing personal medical issues is not a good idea, something I should have learned from past experience.

Several years ago, I mentioned in a column that I was losing my sense of smell. A doctor wrote me and suggested I might have a brain tumor. Others just said I should have my head examined. I’m not sure if this was the same advice.

I received similar notes of concern when I disclosed that I have sneezing fits — sometimes a couple dozen achoos in a row. A very caring reader wrote and said this might be an indication of a severe case of “drug-induced rhinitis” and that she was going to pray for me. Then she said, “God bless you.” She needed to say it 25 times.

Reader recommendations I received for curing my persistent nighttime leg cramps went from Vitamin A to Zinc. Countless remedies were suggested in some very detailed emails, which I had plenty of time to read in bed because — as you can imagine — I don’t get much sleep.

One of my favorite suggestions was mustard. The person who wrote this was very specific that I had to buy cheap mustard, not gourmet mustard like Grey Poupon or Gulden’s.

He recommended two teaspoons right before going to sleep. I didn’t tell my wife I tried it, and when we got into bed, Mary Ellen suggested I change toothpaste brands. She said that not only did my breath stink but that my teeth were yellowing.

By the way, it worked. I didn’t notice any leg cramps. I was up all night with heartburn.

Three people wrote and suggested bananas. Others said that coconut oil was the only solution. Let’s see … bananas and coconut oil. This may explain why so few chimpanzees ever complain of cramps.

Many readers confirmed that a bar of soap does the trick. “Dick, ever think of trying soap?” asked one reader, which I took kind of personally.

I asked my doctor about all these cures. He had heard that putting a bar of soap in the bed worked, but he hadn’t mentioned it to me because he figured I already knew about it. How would I know that? Did I go to Harvard Medical School like he did?

I tried the soap cure, hoping Mary Ellen wouldn’t notice. She’s always accusing me of falling for every wacky idea out there.

“Dick, what’s that strong soapy smell?

“Look, Mary Ellen, please don’t think I’m totally nuts. But that’s a bar of Dial soap that I placed in between the bed sheets.”

“Well, I don’t know why you’d do something so incredibly weird, but look at the bright side: it might cure those leg cramps.”

My absolute favorite email response was from a woman who wrote and said that she missed a lot of work due to this problem, often spending the entire day in bed with gramps.

She said she thought it was a hereditary problem.

I’m hoping hers was a spelling problem.

Television personality Dick Wolfsie writes this weekly column for the Daily Reporter. Send comments to