Magnesium improves response to Tylenol and Advil in kids with migraines.

Children with migraine headaches are usually given acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). A group of Italian doctors compared responses to these two drugs in kids with migraines who took a daily magnesium supplement to those who did not. Results of their study were published in the latest issue of the journal Headache. One hundred sixty children (80 boys and 80 girls) aged 5-16 years were enrolled and assigned to four groups to receive a treatment with acetaminophen or ibuprofen without or with magnesium. The dose of each drug was adjusted according to the child’s weight. Those children who were in the magnesium arm were given 400 mg of magnesium (the article does not mention which salt of magnesium was given – oxide, glycinate, citrate, or another). Migraine pain severity and monthly frequency were similar in the four groups before the start of the study. Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen produced a significant decrease in pain intensity, but not surprisingly, did not change the frequency of attacks. Magnesium intake induced a significant decrease in pain intensity in both acetaminophen- and ibuprofen-treated children and also significantly reduced the time to pain relief with acetaminophen but not ibuprofen. In both acetaminophen and ibuprofen groups, magnesium supplementation significantly reduced the attack frequency after 3 and 18 months of supplementation.

This study was not the most rigorous because it did not include a placebo group as the authors felt that placing children on a placebo would be unethical. However, it was rigorous in other respects and still provides useful information. The first conclusion is that taking magnesium reduces the frequency of migraines in children. The second is that taking magnesium significantly improves the efficacy of acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

The bottom line is that every child (and adult for that matter) should be taking a magnesium supplement. I have written extensively on the importance of magnesium because our research and that of others, including the above study, has consistently shown the benefits of magnesium. Unfortunately, after dozens of publications, hundreds of lectures, and recommendations from medical societies, many doctors still do not recommend magnesium to their migraine patients. Some are not familiar with the research, others dismiss any supplements out of hand, and yet others do not believe the studies because they think that magnesium is too simple and too cheap to be effective. Most doctors are trained to prescribe drugs and they feel that patients expect prescription drugs, so giving them a supplement will disappoint the patient and will reduce doctor’s standing in patients’ eyes. This is clearly not the case since many people prefer more natural approaches and because recommending a supplement does not mean that a prescription drug cannot be also given. In fact, magnesium improves not only the efficacy of acetaminophen and ibuprofen, but also prescription drugs such as sumatriptan (Imitrex).

  1. Dr. Mauskop says: 03/27/20146:03 pm

    An alternative to oral magnesium is monthly intravenous infusions, which many of our patients receive. They find that their migraines are sometimes completely relieved just with magnesium infusions. Those who do not get complete relief, find that their migraines are less frequent, milder, and respond better to treatment. It is not easy to find a doctor who gives IV magnesium for migraines, but some urgent care facilities do give infusions.

  2. Mindy Darrow says: 03/27/20145:51 pm

    I used to take about 1600mg of Magnesium Glycinate as suggested by my Headache Specialist. However, I had to stop in Nov 2013 after about a year of use (even through pregnancy) because it started causing severe diarrhea. Now when I try to take it again I get the same results. I never noticed an improvement of my migraines so I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but it’s a bummer I can’t take it since as a chronic migraineur I’m sure I’m deficient.

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