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Migraine and magnesium deficiency

blue check If you have used magnesium to treat migraine headaches or other medical conditions, we would like to hear from you. Email on this subject will be passed on to interested researchers. Send mail to Janet Mason. If you have QUESTIONS, please contact us.

A number of studies have been done on the relationship between magnesium deficiency and migraine. Some excerpts from Medline abstracts are listed below:

Mauskop A, Altura BM; Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines; Clin Neurosci 1998;5(1):24-7
The importance of magnesium in the pathogenesis of migraine headaches is clearly established by a large number of clinical and experimental studies…However, the precise role of various effects of low magnesium levels in the development of migraines remains to be discovered. Magnesium concentration has an effect on serotonin receptors, nitric oxide synthesis and release, NMDA receptors, and a variety of other migraine related receptors and neurotransmitters.The available evidence suggests that up to 50% of patients during an acute migraine attack have lowered levels of ionized magnesium. Infusion of magnesium results in a rapid and sustained relief of an acute migraine in such patients. Two double-blind studies suggest that chronic oral magnesium supplementation may also reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Because of an excellent safety profile and low cost and despite the lack of definitive studies, we feel that a trial of oral magnesium supplementation can be recommended to a majority of migraine sufferers. Refractory patients can sometimes benefit from intravenous infusions of magnesium sulfate.

Mishima K, Takeshima T, Shimomura T, Kitano A, Takahashi K, Nakashima K, Okada H; Platelet ionized magnesium, cyclic AMP, and cyclic GMP levels in migraine and tension-type headache; Headache 1997 Oct;37(9):561-4
Decreased serum and intracellular levels of magnesium have been reported in patients with migraine. It has been suggested that magnesium may play an important role in the attacks and pathogenesis of headaches…It is suggested that reduced platelet ionized magnesium in patients with tension-type headache is related to abnormal platelet function, and that increased platelet cyclic AMP in patients with migraine is related to alteration of neurotransmitters in the platelet.

Aloisi P, Marrelli A, Porto C, Tozzi E, Cerone G; Visual evoked potentials and serum magnesium levels in juvenile migraine patients; Headache 1997 Jun;37(6):383-5.
…An inverse correlation between increased P100 amplitude and lowered serum magnesium levels was found in children suffering from migraine with and without aura in a headache-free period. A 20-day treatment with oral magnesium pidolate seemed to normalize the magnesium balance in 90% of patients. After treatment, the reduced P100 amplitude confirmed the inverse correlation with the serum magnesium.

Ferrari MD; Biochemistry of migraine; Pathol Biol (Paris) 1992 Apr;40(4).
The author discusses changes in neuroexcitatory amino acids and magnesium, which may reflect a predisposition of the migraine patient, notably those having attacks with aura, to develop spreading depression.

Gallai V, Sarchielli P, Morucci P, Abbritti G; Magnesium content of mononuclear blood cells in migraine patients; Headache 1994 Mar;34(3):160-5.
The migraine patients studied had a reduced mononuclear magnesium content compared to age-matched healthy control subjects. The authors say that the lower magnesium content in mononuclear cells could indirectly indicate the reduction of brain magnesium concentration, which has recently been demonstrated in the course of migraine.

Gallai V, Sarchielli P, Morucci P, Abbritti G; Red blood cell magnesium levels in migraine patients; Cephalalgia 1993 Apr;13(2):94-81; discussion 73
The authors believe that low red blood cell magnesium levels could be a peripheral expression of the reduced brain magnesium concentration observed in migraine patients.

Gallai V, Sarchielli P, Coata G, Firenze C, Morucci P, Abbritti G; Serum and salivary magnesium levels in migraine: Results in a group of juvenile patients; Headache 1992 Mar;32(3):132-5
"In the last few years a fundamental role for magnesium in establishing the threshold for migraine attacks and involvement in the pathophysiologic mechanisms related to its onset has become evident. In comparison with normal subjects, migraine patients had lower levels of serum and salivary magnesium interictally. Serum magnesium levels tended to be further reduced during attacks (which) could be an expression, at the peripheral level, of reduced cerebral magnesium levels which would contribute, at least in part, to defining the threshold for migraine attacks."

Sarchielli P, Coata G, Firenze, Morucci P, Abbritti G, Gallai V; Serum and salivary magnesium levels in migraine and tension-type headache. Results in a group of adult patients.Cephalalgia 1992 Feb;12(1):21-7.
The authors state that serum magnesium levels and to a lesser extent salivary magnesium levels might express indirectly the lowering of brain extracellular magnesium concentration which occurs in migraine patients.

Taubert K; [Magnesium in migraine. Results of a multicenter pilot study]; Fortschr Med 1994 Aug 30;112(24):328-30.
The hypothesis that magnesium may be useful in the prevention of migraine attacks has been confirmed by this pilot study. Further studies are in preparation.

Thomas J, Thomas E, Tomb E; Serum and erythrocyte magnesium concentrations and migraine; Magnes Res 1992 Jun;5(2):127-30.
"The findings support the hypothesis of a magnesium deficit in people suffering from migraine and raise the problem of the relationship between migraine and other pathologies, including chronic magnesium deficit, latent tetany due to magnesium deficit, mitral valve prolapse, and allergy."

Thomas J, Tomb E, Thomas E, Faure G; Migraine treatment by oral magnesium intake and correction of the irritation of buccofacial and cervical muscles as a side effect of mandibular imbalance; Magnes Res 1994 Jun;7(2):123-7.
This study shows that migraine patients have a magnesium deficit, which, while not constant, is a frequent occurrence.

Welch KM, Barkley GL, Tepley N, Ramadan NM; Central neurogenic mechanisms of migraine; Neurology 1993 Jun;43(6 Suppl 3):S21-5.
This study indicates that low intracellular brain magnesium concentration may be the link between the physiologic threshold for migraine and the attack itself.

Welch KM, Barkley GL, Ramadan NM, D'Andrea G; NMR spectroscopic and magnetoencephalographic studies in migraine with aura: support for the spreading depression hypothesis; Pathol Biol (Paris) 1992 Apr;40(4):349-54.
"The authors propose that patients who suffer from migraine with aura have a susceptibility to spontaneous neuronal discharges and subsequent spreading depression...hypersusceptibility is supported by increased turnover of high-energy phosphates, low intracellular Mg2+ and large amplitude depolarizing waves on magnetoencephalography ."

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Perhaps oral magnesium supplementation should be a part of treatment for migraine as a preventive.

I suggest treating physicians advise migraine patients to consume at least 6 mg magnesium per day for each kilogram of body weight. An even higher intake of 10 mg/day per Kg of body weight may be desirable provided that it does not trigger a laxative effect. Breaking the dosage into three or four parts taken at different times of day helps prevent laxative effect. Magnesium hydroxide is NOT recommended because of poor bioavailability and because I know of no instance of it having any beneficial use other than as a laxative. Other Mg compounds appear to be better, including Mg oxide, Mg sulphate, and Mg citrate. Natural magnesium in water (magnesium carbonate dissolved in CO2-rich water) is 30% more bio-available than Mg in food or pill, and offers much greater cardio-protection. If pills are used, we suggest chelated, Krebs cycle, with several Mg compounds; this gives greater bio- availability, and doesn't upset the stomach.

This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on September 30, 1995