Ask The Experts

Does pickle juice help the pain in the calf of the leg?

Thank you for contacting us. IPFH does not diagnose conditions or recommend treatments on line. If you have muscle cramps in the calf of your leg and are considering using pickle juice to help relieve them, it would be best for you to consult your primary care physician. Pickle juice consists mostly of vinegar and salt, and the use of pickle juice to combat cramping in the muscles is based on the assumption that low sodium and electrolyte levels are the primary cause of such cramping. However, this is not necessarily the case. A recent article suggests that there are multiple potential causes associated with leg cramps. One theory that seems to be fairly widely accepted is the "altered neuromuscular control" theory. This posits that muscle fatigue results in altered signals from the central nervous system that cause an increase in "excitement" in the muscles, leading to localized cramping. Another contributing factor seems to be dehydration. Several studies (Plasma and electrolyte changes in exercising humans after ingestion of multiple boluses of pickle juice, and Electrolyte and plasma responses after pickle juice, mustard, and deionized water ingestion in dehydrated humans) have shown that there is a negligible effect on blood chemistry from ingesting small to moderate amounts of pickle juice, and while it has been theorized that ingesting pickle juice might promote elevation of potassium levels and dehydration, the second of the studies mentioned above suggests that ingestion of small amounts does not have such an effect. These studies would seem to lead to the conclusion that, pending further research, ingesting pickle juice is not a highly effective way to deal with cramping in the calf muscles (although it may have some minor benefit, or at least would not be detrimental in moderate amounts). However, as we mentioned at the outset, the best way for you to confirm whether or not it would be beneficial for you is to inquire of your medical provider. He or she knows your medical history and is in the best position to provide you useful advice. We hope you will consult him or her, and that you will get some actionable recommendations. You can also read more about calf pain at our article on the subject.

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