Pickle Juice: The Pain and The Brain


It reduces CRAMPS in 15 seconds.  That’s it. Period.

Unless it doesn’t.   Picture from bodybuilding.com is a reminder of how muscle cramps feel.   Been there, right?

This whole pickle juice thing is old news to some but here’s the story anyway.

After all the articles about muscle cramps (and all the things I’ve tried) involving hydration, sodium and potassium replacement, stretching, not-stretching, probably even humming the right tune, there seems to be no overall agreement on what really causes cramps or how to prevent them except for the old-school “ya’ ain’t got enough salt!” 

Cramping has been high on the list because at 3 in the morning, after a hard workout that day running or biking, I suddenly jump out of bed saying “cramp, cramp, cramp, cramp….” and try to fix the muscle(s) that are freakishly tight so they stop hurting. Takes a really long time, thrashing around, half asleep, before things quiet down. We’ve got to stop this mess!

So, an article in RunnersConnect; accumulated [scientific research, neurophysiology] seems to point to the brain keeps on stimulating the muscle regardless of what the muscle is reporting back to the brain, and that lack of electrolytes have nothing to do with it. Australians had jumped onto the wacky-brain thing, too, and that’s when I started to take notice (Australia has a high percentage of triathletes and does a lot of research in endurance sports).

It’s not like I hadn’t tried pickle juice, but was drinking it at the wrong time! Turns out you have to drink it when you’re having the cramp! duh. See, the brain is, like, on this trip “Brain sending a signal, Brain sending a signal, Brain sending…. blah blah” and can’t stop. So, putting pickle juice in your mouth triggers a reflex when it hits a nerve center on the back of the throat that jolts the [brain et al] to chill out and shut up the hyperactive nerves causing the cramp. All this happens WAAY sooner than if the salt, acetic acid, etc got into your blood and eventually to the muscle. It’s direct: throat to nerve center to brain to nerves.

So tried it. It works. Takes between 15 and 30 seconds. I put a little bottle of pickle juice beside the bed at night, and if a cramp happens  drink a little. Voila! Pain gone! Caveat….you might need to stretch the muscle out after it stops hurting, because occasionally it will come back an hour later if you don’t. So, for me at least……no worries, the pickle juice works…. And the bestest thing of all, I LOVE dill pickles!