Magnesium plays a role in smooth muscle and skeletal muscle function. Moreover, significantly reduced levels of magnesium in blood and saliva have been observed in patients with migraine and tension headaches. It is known that magnesium deficiency can cause the blood vessels in the brain to go into spasm and can trigger the increased release of such pain mediators as “substance P.”
Clinical studies over the years have shown encouraging results using supplemental magnesium in migraine as follows:
1. In a good-quality study, 20 patients with menstrual migraine were treated either with 360 mg a day of magnesium or placebo. In the magnesium-treated group, the number of days with headache was reduced. Plus, magnesium levels inside cells were significantly raised.
2. In a good-quality study, 43 migraine patients were given either 600 mg of magnesium a day or placebo. Magnesium supplementation significantly reduced the number of migraine attacks as compared to placebo.
3. In another good study, 81 migraine patients aged 18-65 years were given either 600 mg a day of magnesium or placebo. Magnesium led to a 41.6% reduction of attack frequency as compared to only 15.8% attack frequency in the placebo-treated group. Also, the number of days with migraine and the anti-migraine drug use were reduced only in the magnesium-treated group. Adverse side effects in the magnesium-treated patients included diarrhea in 18.6% and stomach irritation in 4.7%.
4. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study among children aged three to 17 with migraine, 58 were given magnesium oxide and 60 were given placebo. In the magnesium-treated children, there was a decrease in headache frequency, but not in the placebo-treated group. Moreover, magnesium supplements led to reduced headache severity as compared to placebo treatment.
5. Intravenously administered magnesium has been shown to be quite effective in treating severe migraine headaches in the emergency room.