Magnesium and migraines.

An email I just received, which is attached at the end of this post, prompted me to write again about magnesium. In my opinion, every migraine sufferer should try taking magnesium. It’s been 20 years since we published our first study of magnesium, in which we showed that during an attack, half of migraine sufferers have a magnesium deficiency. In that study, patients who were deficient had dramatic relief of their acute migraine with an intravenous infusion of magnesium. Subsequent studies by other researchers have shown that oral magnesium supplementation can also help. The results of those studies were not as dramatic because many people do not absorb magnesium taken by mouth. One large double-blind study used a salt of magnesium that was caused diarrhea in almost half of the patients. The magnesium salts that are better absorbed include magnesium glycinate, gluconate, aspartate (these are so called chelated forms), but some people do well with magnesium oxide, citrate, or chloride. The recommended daily dose of magnesium for a healthy adult is 400 mg a day, but some people need a higher dose. However, higher doses can cause diarrhea, while in others, even a high dose does not get absorbed. In these cases, monthly intravenous injections can be very effective. To establish who is deficient, a special blood test can help. The regular blood test is called serum magnesium level, but it is highly unreliable. A better test is RBC magnesium, but even with this test, if the value is normal, but is at the bottom of normal range, a deficiency is likely to be present. In many people there is no need for a test because they have multiple symptoms of magnesium deficiency. These symptoms include coldness of extremities, leg or foot cramps, PMS in women, “brain fog”, difficulty breathing, insomnia, and palpitations.

Here is the email I just received:

Dr. Mauskop,

I am a 76 year old male; serious headaches began at 8 years of age.
Full migraines started at 18 years of age, with aura, intense pain on one side, violent vomiting.
Sought treatment at UCLA, Thomas Jefferson University, London, Singapore. Had brain scans, biofeedback, full allergy testing, beta blockers. Started on Imigran/Imitrex in 1993 in Singapore, worked well, but did not stop pain completely. Still took a day to recover.
Nothing stopped the 2 to 4 episodes per week.
Two months ago, I read about magnesium deficiency. (Not recommended by any doctor before.)
Took 600 mg capsule per day for three days. No migraine.
Had a bit of diarrhea – checked on internet, saw it was the dose of magnesium.
Dropped intake to 340 mg per day.
Miracle: No migraine in two months.
Thank you for your research and service.
I had an annual physical in December, and mentioned to my doctor – an internist – what I had recently read about magnesium. He had not heard about it; checked on the internet while I was there; and said “interesting”. So, the word is certainly not out.


  1. Mike H says: 05/19/20159:40 am

    I take 100 – 133 mg of magnesium glycinate each day before bed. I’ve tried many times to increase the dose, but my bowels don’t let me. I wish I could take more.

    I don’t think I have symptoms of magnesium deficiency, but I do get migraines regularly. Usually my preventatives work well for a couple months before I’m back to a migraine every week or so, which is still better than my near daily migraines before preventatives.

    I’m currently on a beta blocker and low dose antidepressant. My migraines are mostly weather related, which can make them somewhat predictable, but I get hit at least twice a month with a bad one that has 3+days of debilitating postdrome, even if I get rid of most of the pain with triptans/nsaids.

  2. Dr. Mauskop says: 02/14/201511:25 am

    You definitely do not want to combine magnesium with calcium since calcium blocks absorption of magnesium. The reason these two are often combined in one pill is that magnesium improves absorption of calcium. B vitamins can be helpful for the prevention of migraines – see this previous post.

  3. Adam S says: 02/13/201511:06 pm

    This post inspired me to return to magnesium supplements at high doses. I’ve read that B vitamins and calcium are a requirement too in making magnesium effective. Yet I’ve read in your blog that calcium can make pain chronic. I wonder if you suggest patients pair their magnesium intake with B vitamins and/or calcium.

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