Should Magnesium Be Prescribed in Pain Management?

Chronic pain has been a high concern in the medical industry for as long as it has existed. It’s becoming increasingly prevalent, but remains just as complex with many different causes and presentations. We have looked at magnesium for period pain, migraines and back pain, but what about other more insistent chronic pain? Magnesium’s role in pain is still being fully discovered, but let’s take a look at what the research says lately. 

A review by Park and colleagues [1] looked at four different classifications of pain: neurological, migraines, complex regional pain syndrome and lower back pain. Following 6 weeks of magnesium treatment, the most benefit was seen in lower back pain with a neuropathic component. Neuropathic pain refers to pain that’s usually chronic, stemming from a nerve disease or nerve damage. Whether the improvement in pain is due to the very mental aspect of living in chronic pain, or due to the action of magnesium on NMDA receptors (involved in perceiving pain) requires more studies. NMDA receptors are involved in learning and memory, as well as spatial memory. However, they also pass feedback back to the brain about stimuli and can release substance P. Substance P is a neurotransmitter that signals pain perception. Kirkland, Sarlo and Holton [2] report from a neurological view, magnesium is important in nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. Magnesium may have a protective effect here, the way it works in the body suggests it is useful for prevention of neurological disease. 

Magnesium works in this setting as an antagonist at NMDA receptors, meaning it plays a role in pain sensitivity and attenuates preexisting pain hypersensitivity. Na et al [3,4] suggest magnesium reduces the need for anaesthetic and analgesic (pain reducing) medication around operations. We know that it’s effective in dysmenorrhea (severe period pain), headaches and acute migraines, but this antinociceptive action could reach so many more conditions. Since chronic pain is a massive public health concern, all treatments should be considered. We also know that a significant proportion of the population are subclinically low in magnesium, but not deficient [5]. If magnesium is so essential for nerve function, how do you think lowered levels would affect nervous function when we’re talking about pain perception? Females are more prone to magnesium deficiency, and respond more strongly to magnesium in pain management than males [5]. 

As magnesium has the theory behind it’s use in pain management, and studies are in progress, we suggest using food sources of magnesium and transdermal at this is safer for long-term use. There is such a potential for magnesium to create better quality of life for those living with mild-moderate chronic pain. If you need help finding magnesium foods - check out our blog post here. We greatly look forward to seeing the research in this area, but for now, we hope you enjoyed our brief summary.


[1] PMID: 32049671

[2] PMID: 29882776

[3] PMID: 29920000

[4] PMID: 32718032

[5] PMID: 32708577

[6] PMID: 30635260

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