Magnesium for Migraines – Best Form, Prevention, Evidence

In this article we are going to look at the science behind magnesium for migraines.  We will also discuss the best form of magnesium for preventing and possibly treating the pain associated with migraine headaches.

Does magnesium help with migraines?

The evidence looks promising that supplementing with magnesium daily can help reduce both the frequency and intensity of migraines.  We will analyze the studies below.

Does magnesium help only with migraine prevention or can it actually cure migraine pain?

While magnesium supplementation appears to help with both the frequency and intensity (pain) of migraine headaches, it is not clear in most studies if supplementing with magnesium will help cure a migraine that you already have.  

Note: There is some evidence that it could help with acute migraine (see studies below)

Basically this means that you need to be taking enough magnesium daily to reduce the frequency and pain of your future migraines. If you take magnesium only while you have a migraine, you probably shouldn’t expect much.  If you get migraines on a regular basis, then now is the best time to start supplementing with magnesium.

What is the best form of magnesium for migraines?

There are many different forms of magnesium on the market.  The truth is that not all of them have been studied or compared to each other in order to prove scientifically which form works the best.

With that said, we highly recommend using magnesium bisglycinate (same as magnesium glycinate).  We specifically recommend non-buffered magnesium bisglycinate.

Read this detailed article for more information on magnesium bisglycinate.

The reason we recommend this form is that it absorbs better than other forms of magnesium, and specifically it won’t cause diarrhea.

Another benefit of magnesium bisglycinate is that it is very relaxing.  It contains the amino acid glycine, which helps reduce anxiety and pain perception

It can help with muscle cramping and help relax tight muscles – which often occur in the neck of migraine sufferers.

How does magnesium work to help with migraine?

Magnesium does a few important things that help both headache and migraine sufferers.

  1.  Magnesium relaxes the muscles all over the body, including in the head and neck.  Tight muscles in the head and neck contribute to migraine, and relaxing these muscles helps to avoid migraines and tension headaches.
  1. Magnesium relaxes the blood vessels.  Constricted blood vessels cause pain and can lead to migraine. 
  1. Magnesium blocks pain signaling.  It does this by binding to the NMDA receptors and not allowing calcium to enter the cell and transmit pain signals.

What is the scientific evidence of magnesium for migraines?

Study 1:

Here is a study that notes the strong correlation between people suffering from a migraine and having very low magnesium levels.  

They also point out that it is very difficult to accurately measure magnesium deficiency with routine blood work.  They recommend using proxy measures that hint at a deficiency, such as cold hands and feet.  

Here is a quote from their conclusion:

“In patients with symptoms suggestive of hypomagnesemia such as pre- menstrual syndrome, cold extremities and foot or leg cramps, we suggest daily magnesium supplementation with 400mg of chelated magnesium, magnesium oxide or slow-release magnesium.”

Note:  They go on to mention that some people may experience diarrhea from their recommendations.  This is one major reason we suggest not using magnesium oxide. 

Study 2:

This placebo controlled study looked at whether magnesium supplementation could reduce the frequency and severity of migraines in children.  

They concluded that magnesium supplementation significantly reduced the frequency of migraines, as well as significantly lowering the migraine severity (pain) compared to placebo.

Study 3:

This study was a review of several different studies on magnesium’s role in migraine prevention and reducing migraine severity.

They found some evidence of reduction in both intensity and frequency of migraines when compared to placebo.

What is the proper dose of magnesium to prevent migraines?

The dose really depends on the type of magnesium, how deficient someone is, and if you are male, female, or a child.

Some studies looked at doses as low as 200mg of magnesium, and some were as high as 1 gram.  It is advised to always read the labels and check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner.

Generally speaking, the daily requirements of magnesium are:

Men:  400 mg per day

Women:  300 mg per day

Children:  200 mg per day

What do I do if my magnesium supplement is causing me diarrhea?

Diarrhea, loose stool, or stomach upset is often listed as one of the most common side effects of magnesium supplementation.  In fact, a lot of people take magnesium oxide, for the purpose of relieving their constipation – it is that effective.  

Most often different forms of magnesium will be recommended which are easier on the stomach, such as magnesium glycinate, but it is almost never mentioned that most magnesium glycinate supplements are buffered (mixed with oxide).  

You really need to try pure, non-buffered magnesium bisglycinate.  There is no oxide in this supplement at all.  Read more detail here about magnesium that won’t cause diarrhea.

Which magnesium supplement should I buy to help me with my migraines?

We recommend our pure, non-buffered magnesium bisglycinate.  We use premium veggie capsules and no magnesium stearate.

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Andrew Best

Cofounder - Director of R&D

Andrew educates consumers about the latest scientific research in the natural health supplement field.

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