Magnesium for Migraines: How Does It Work?

Calm headaches and migraines with magnesium

Table of Contents

Why do doctors recommend magnesium for migraines?

The short answer is that if you aren’t getting enough magnesium, you may be prone to migraines because of muscle tension, imbalanced hormones, or nervous system issues.

Migraines can be debilitating. Days spent in dark rooms, not moving. Social events missed. Too many medications.

In good news, research suggests that magnesium can be helpful for migraines. In this post, we’ll explore how magnesium works to relieve pain from migraines.

“Studies have found that people who have migraines tend to have lower levels of magnesium than people who don’t get headache” ( WebMD, Magnesium for Migraine)

Magnesium helps reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of migraines. But how does the magnesium-migraine connection work? In this post, we’ll explore the link between this key mineral and relief from migraines.

First, let’s define what we mean by a migraine. While magnesium helps with most types of headaches, migraines are unique.

What are Migraines?

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Sometimes confused with headaches, migraine is a condition that results in intense and recurring headaches, among other symptoms.

Prior to the actual headache, some people experience sensory changes, called an aura. An aura can include vision changes such as light flashes or blind spots, or tingling in hands or face. Migraine with aura is defined as classic migraine, while cases that do not experience aura are classified as common migraine. 

Auras are generally a warning sign that precedes a full-blown migraine.

A migraine typically includes pulsing pain on one or both sides of the head, light and sound sensitivity, nausea, and potentially vomiting.

Following an attack, many feel confused, exhausted, or relieved. Sudden head movement is not recommended as it can briefly induce pain again.

Migraines are caused by both genetic and environmental elements, but their exact origins remain enigmatic to researchers. The brainstem and its interactions with certain nerves, especially those that act as pain pathways in the brain, as well as chemical imbalances in the brain, are suspected to play a significant role.  

Causes of Migraines

Different people get migraines for different reasons. Migraines triggers include but are not limited to:

  • Changes in hormones in women: Changes in estrogen levels around the time of menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause seem to trigger migraines for some women. 
  • Sleep schedule disturbances: Not getting enough, or getting too much sleep can aggravate migraines. 
  • Stress: Emotional stress and the hormones released under stress can cause migraines.
  • Blood sugar changes: Skipping a meal may trigger a migraine.
  • Dehydration: Being dehydrated is a key trigger of migraines.
  • Food and chemical sensitivities: Certain compounds can trigger migraines. Nitrates and fermented or pickled foods are linked to migraines, for example.
  • Weather fluctuation: Changes in barometric pressure can trigger migraines and headaches.
  • Bright or flashing lights: Some people who have migraines are sensitive to strobe lights, bright sunlight, and more.

Migraines and Blood Vessel Changes

A confirmed cause of migraines continues to elude researchers and scientists, but many believe they are a result of sudden, dramatic changes in the blood vessels.  These ‘vascular changes’ interfere with the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.

The triggers or causes of these vascular changes are as varied as the individuals who suffer from migraines.

Magnesium may help by acting as a natural blood thinner, helping prevent thickened blood and tiny clots that can cause blood vessel spasms and pain. Magnesium also relaxes the blood vessels and allows them to dilate, again, reducing the spasms and constrictions that can cause migraines.

Migraines and Serotonin Levels

A widely-held theory is that migraines are triggered when serotonin levels drop. Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter known to regulate mood and promote a general feeling of well-being.

Low serotonin levels cause inflammation and pain (more on that below).

Many prescription drugs for depression are designed to elevate serotonin levels, which is why anti-depressants may be prescribed for migraines. Many patients are disappointed with the efficacy of these medications in reducing the frequency or severity of their migraines.

Magnesium in the blood helps to convert tryptophan into serotonin. Magnesium directly affects the amount of serotonin found in the blood, which is one reason why magnesium supplementation may help with migraines.

Migraines and Inflammation

“Migraine diagnosis is associated with elevated high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), a marker of inflammation, in young adults. The relationship, particularly apparent in young women, may play a role in migraine pathogenesis.”(Neurology Advisor, Inflammation May Play Significant Role in Migraine in Women)

Migraines are associated with inflammation, but what role does magnesium play in regulating inflammation?

A 2005 study showed that subjects whose magnesium intake is below the recommended daily allowance are more likely to have elevated CRP, a marker of inflammation associated with migraines. (Journal of the American College of Nutrition)

Tension Headaches and Magnesium

Migraines and headaches are two separate types of pain, however, it’s worth mentioning here the link between magnesium and headaches.

Magnesium deficiency will cause irritation and inflammation in the smooth muscles around the neck and scalp.

Magnesium relaxes muscles and prevents the buildup of lactic acid, which, along with muscle tension, can worsen head pain.

Magnesium may also help with winter headaches, which are often cluster headaches brought on by cold, dark, and stress.

Migraines and Sleep Disturbances

It may come as no surprise to you that migraines are often associated with poor sleep, too little sleep, or insomnia:

“A good night’s rest is essential for both our survival and wellbeing. Sleep regulates and restores many of the body’s functions, like our learning, memory, and immune systems. Sleep also affects our mood, as well as our organs like the brain, heart, and lungs. It comes as no surprise, then, that sleep deprivation can negatively impact these systems and lead to mental and physical health problems. In fact, migraines and other types of headaches are among some of the most frustrating illnesses related to sleep deprivation.” – Sleep Foundation, Sleep Deprivation and Migraines

Poor sleep increases the severity and duration of migraines, as well as the frequency.

In good news, magnesium helps with sleep. Magnesium facilitates the release of melatonin, the sleep hormone. It also relaxes the muscles and nerves, as discussed, so that you can ease into a more restful sleep.

Why Magnesium is the Migraine Solution 

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Research shows that patients who suffer from migraines are more likely to have low levels of magnesium than those who do not. 

A study by the University of Maryland Medical Centre found that regular magnesium supplementation reduced migraine attacks by 41.6%, and other research has shown that magnesium can help mitigate migraines that are tethered to menstruation. Older research corroborates the hypothesis that magnesium helps to reduce the number of migraine occurrences, as well as, in some cases, the use of stronger allopathic drugs used to deal with migraine symptoms. 

In a 1996 published study, researchers gave 81 migraine sufferers either 600 milligrams of magnesium or a placebo pill once daily for three months. After four weeks, 42% of the group taking magnesium reported a reduction in the number of migraine occurrences.  As well, the duration of migraine drug use significantly decreased among people who took magnesium supplements.

20 years later, there is growing support in the physician community that some of the most severe cases of migraines may actually be directly related to an imbalance of key minerals such as magnesium and calcium.

How Magnesium Helps: Debbie’s Story

Natural Calm Canada’s founder, Linda Bolton, first discovered magnesium through her sister, Debbie, who has long experienced migraines. Here’s Debbie’s story:

“Do you know what it’s like to dread going to sleep when the weather is changing, suffering from PMS, and feeling stressed only to know that when you open your eyes the next morning you will have a migraine?

Here comes the Zomig at $15.54 per pill. The side effects are deadly: nausea, vomiting, head spins. I would crave salt, and junk food, eat, put on weight, and feel depressed because I was getting fat and could not help it, all the while knowing that a headache would be back when I opened my eyes the next morning.

I started getting migraines at the age of 12, and by the time was 47, I had 3 to 5 migraines per week.

I tried everything: a wide variety of doctors, beta-blockers, acupuncture, chiropractor, and massage therapy for almost 20 years, and nothing helped. At the time no one asked if I had a magnesium deficiency.

I found Natural Calm magnesium (then only available in the US) through an online search and I started to take it twice a day. Instead of getting migraines three to five days a week, I get about one migraine a month.

Life is great, I have energy, I feel good and it is nice to close my eyes at the end of the day knowing I will feel good the next day.”

Over the years many other customers have written in to share their stories of using magnesium for migraines, and getting relief.

Try Natural Calm Magnesium for Migraines and Headaches

Natural Calm Magnesium Citrate Flavours

If you experience migraines, you should replenish your magnesium levels every day. Most people don’t get enough through diet, and your levels may be depleted by stress or medications. 

If you speak with a neurologist today about your migraines, they may recommend magnesium. Over the years since Debbie first discovered Natural Calm, magnesium has been increasingly recognized as a safe, natural, effective supplement to help reduce migraines and headaches.

Natural Calm is highly absorbable, tastes great, and is backed by tens of thousands of five-star reviews from customers around the world. 

FAQs on Magnesium for Migraines

Which magnesium is best for migraines?

Magnesium citrate is a highly absorbable form preferred by many. Some supplements with magnesium glycinate or magnesium malate are also of good quality.

How does magnesium help with migraines?

Migraine sufferers are encouraged to supplement with magnesium, not just for prevention purposes but also to reduce the duration and severity of migraines once they have begun.

Magnesium is a pain reliever because it stimulates the release of serotonin in the brain, which helps relieve tension headaches. It also relaxes blood vessels so they don’t spasm and cause pain.

In addition, magnesium helps prevent muscle spasms that can lead to tension headaches, and it promotes restful sleep, which may prevent some migraines.

How much magnesium should I take for a migraine?

Please follow the dosing guidelines for your age and stage of life.

Some individuals with migraines supplement with 400 to 800 milligrams of elemental magnesium daily for prevention purposes. However, the right amount for you will depend on a number of factors. Start with a lower dose and increase gradually. If you experience loose stools, reduce the total amount or take smaller amounts of magnesium more frequently.

To reduce the duration and severity of migraines once they have begun, some practitioners recommend higher doses of magnesium. Consult your physician if you wish to try this approach.

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