Migraine and Magnesium – new study

Is there a migraine magnesium connection?  Could you lower your risk of a migraine attack by taking a magnesium supplement?  A new study suggests that the answer is yes.

The Migraine Magnesium connection

It was actually over 70 years ago that it was first suggested that there is a migraine magnesium link.  Today, many migraineurs take a daily magnesium supplement, and supplements targeted to fight migraine (such as MigreLief) contain magnesium.  Magnesium has also been used intravenously in the emergency room to abort migraine attacks.  Still, there continues to be argument about whether or not a daily supplement helps.

In June 2008, the journal Magnesium Research reported on a study with migraine patients without aura.  Patients were given either a 600mg magnesium citrate supplement, or a placebo.  The researchers used a number of techniques, including brain mapping and measurement of migraine attack frequency and severity.

Researchers found two interesting things.  First, the patients with migraine on magnesium actually did have fewer and less severe attacks.  Also, there was an increase in blood flow to certain parts of the brain in these patients.  Somehow the magnesium is causing changes in the brain, and those changes are benefiting the migraineurs.

Taking magnesium for migraine

Notice that the type of magnesium in this study was magnesium citrate.  I’ve always recommended the "ate" types of magnesium, such as citrate, because they tend to be better absorbed.

Secondly, the study used a 600mg supplement.  The general recommendation for migraine has been 300-400mg.  I suggest you try at least 400mg (many multivitamins contain 50-100mg, so you can take both).  I recommend the Ultra-Mag Magnesium complex from Source Naturals, which contains a combination of magnesium citrate, taurinate, malate, glycinate, and succinate.

When I first read about this study at Dr. Alexander Mauskop’s blog, I wanted to double check the relationship between calcium and magnesium (Dr. Mauskop is the Director and founder of the New York Headache Center).  He was gracious enough to confirm what my research had already told me.  For migraine, do not buy a calcium/magnesium blend.  Basically, it works like this.  If you need calcium, take the calcium/magnesium because it will help the calcium absorb better.  But take a separate supplement of magnesium at another meal for migraine.  The magnesium will not absorb well in the presence of the calcium.

Again, if you need the calcium, take the calcium/magnesium blend at another meal.  Always take the magnesium for migraine without calcium.

More about magnesium and migraine here.

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46 comments… add one
  • Susanne Nov 6, 2008

    Great blog entry
    I have been sufgfering from migraines for 30 years now, and am right now wondering why I hadn’t thought about magnesium as a preventative treatment. My mother took magnesium faithfully every day for as long as I can remember. I just never thought to ask her why.

    Keep up the good work, it is nice to know we are not alone, when seeking alternative relief for our nemesis.


  • brettruben Nov 7, 2008

    The mineral magnesium is a strong antioxidant and at the same time very essential to life. This antioxidant keeps us young and healthy.

  • Mary Kay Nov 7, 2008

    Hi James,
    I agree that magnesium has benefits. Recent studies showed it dips even further during the menstrual week for menstrual migraineurs. We are advising 800mg per day at the current time. I have seen some startling results but again it doesn’t work for everyone. Still worth a try and the response seems dose related.

    Dr. Mauskop is a very nice man. Saw him at the AHS meeting this past summer. He is currently researching a magnesium/aspirin combination for headache prevention.

  • James Nov 13, 2008

    Thanks for the comments.

    Yes, magnesium has a number of “benefits” – or I should say, the lack of it causes a number of issues that are very familiar to migraineurs. For example, weakness and nausea. Magnesium also helps with sleep patterns, so important to migraineurs, cluster headache patients, and others with chronic headache issues.

  • Laurie Dec 29, 2008

    I have found after suffering from migraines since a child that taking the magnesium and 200 mg of co-enzyme Q 10 in the morning with breakfast is the golden ticket. Would recommend taking a multi-vitamin and calcium with the evening meal.

  • James Dec 30, 2008

    Good recommendation, Laurie. Glad it’s working for you! Separating the calcium and larger magnesium dose is exactly what you need to do.

  • Ryan Jan 24, 2009

    I am currently taking magnesium for silent migraines it was working well until recently, but after reading the article I realized I may not be taking the right kind of magnesium the bottle says magnesium oxide this is the second bottle I have bought I bet the first one was the correct kind. I’m off to the store to get the correct kind. Currently taking 500mg of mag and 100mg of vitamin b2

  • Shari Feb 25, 2009

    Interesting article. 700 mg of Magnesium was recommended to me by my neurologist. I got the straight magnesium supplements and couldn’t even tolerate 500 mg but tried for a month. It gave me bad diarrhea. So perhaps I need to check and see if the magnesium ‘citrate’ is different? I think I did notice a bit of a difference but I was also taking Lexapro as a preventative at the same time. Still haven’t got the migraines under control…

    • joan May 29, 2011

      I have the same problem, if you take calcium at night or opposit to when you take the magnesium it will prevent the diarrhea

      • James May 30, 2011

        Hi Joan,

        That could solve the problem, but you can’t take calcium at the same time as the magnesium if you’re taking it for migraine.

    • James May 30, 2011

      Shari, try the magnesium mentioned above. You should be able to take a higher dose without a problem.

  • Christine Mar 27, 2009

    I found http://www.headache-treatment-options.com/migraine-prevention.html (a highly regarded practice in Virginia) as a link from this site, this doctor recommends magnesium oxide, not citrate. Why would he specify that if citrate is better absorbed?

  • itrekalot May 6, 2009

    I have been taking Magnesium oxide for about 18 months. No problems with it. It has reduced my migraines from 2-3/week which kept me in bed for many hours while Zomig tried to remedy it… to NONE. It has been a godsend for me. I get a headache (not migraine intense) about 1-2 times a month now which is alleviated with ibuprofin and a decongestant. I will NEVER stop taking the magnesium! It’s just a pity my neurologist kept prescribing Zomig, and never mentioned magnesium. I couldn’t stand the pain anymore and researched this on the internet (something doctors have a habit of telling their patients to never do), tried it and finally found relief.

  • Liz May 8, 2009

    I had only been told by my neurologist to take Magnesium during menstruation. Also i take a more rare, and highly unavailable kind-magnesium glycinate. It didn’t seem to make much of a difference, but after doing more research i’ve up’d my dose to 400mg/day and will likely double that will menstruating. It has already begun to make a difference! And a bonus is that i’m able to wean myself from my preventative, Topamax, which i believe is a devil drug. If the magnesium ends up giving me a laxative effect it will be welcome because the Topamax has given me *awful IBS with constipation for over a year now. I believe the most relief i’ve had in years is in sight with magnesium!

  • Gyan May 11, 2009

    Wow! What great information here in the Comments section too. Thank you all so much for the info. Apparently, I’ve been on the wrong kind of magnesium (oxide not citrate) and at the wrong dosage (500 mg not 800 mg). Mary Kay — read your article too. Thanks for the detailed info. I get both hormonal migraines and barometric pressure migraines. Perhaps changing to citrate and boosting dosage to 800 mg will help even more.

  • TheDailyHerb Jun 12, 2009

    Pharmacy told me that Magnesium Citrate only comes in liquid form. Anyone else hear that? Liquid is lemon-flavored and I put it in my morning smoothie. But would like to confirm what forms Mag Cit comes in.

  • Lane Sep 20, 2009

    Magnesium Citrate does come in tablet form. I get mine at Whole Foods — it comes in a bright orange bottle and costs around $8.00.

  • Tude Sep 21, 2009

    Trouble is, the article says research was done, was it double blind trial.
    Are the results to be published in medical journals of standing, otherwise it comes over as an advert.

  • okiegem Sep 21, 2009

    For many years, I suffered from excrutiating migraine headaches without aura. Before I found relief with magnesium oxide and coenzyme Q10 I was having them as much as twice/week, and could literally not function for often two days at a time. It was horrible. My father, a physician, suffered from them as well, and would have to take codeine and go to bed. But, because migraines have “auras”, he was never diagnosed with migraines and they were not treated as such. I thought there was nothing I could do either, except deal with them the best I could. I was 56 years old by the time a neurologist diagnosed me with migraines w/o aura. He prescribed Zomig. But, this was far less than sufficient, having to take them several times a week, having side effects and feeling completely “out of it”, continued to render me less than functional. Then, about two years ago, I read something somewhere about magnesium and coenzymeQ10, and tried them. After a few weeks, I realized my migraines were GONE! I take 400mg CoQ10 and 500mg magnesium oxide, which I get at the local Wal-Mart, and I really am migraine-free! It has truly been life-altering.

  • vicky mergenthal Sep 24, 2009

    all posts are very interesting and some helpful. have had headaches/migraines since age 18 and am currently 51. been to many drs./neurologists and have researched everything. i do believe magnesium and coq10 help. am working on dosage and type of magnesium to see further improvement. am interested in reading more posts.

  • Angie Oct 17, 2009

    If you suffer from migraines and haven’t tried Magnesium PLEASE TRY IT!! I have had migraines since I was 6 years old. I am now 39. I have been on countless anti-depressants and anti-seizure type meds as preventatives…some worked – some did not, but all had some major side effects. If you’ve taken them, you know what I mean. 5 months ago, I started developing “stroke-like” right sided hemiplegia with my migraines and then subsequently “seizure-type” episodes. They were not strokes, as confirmed by an MRI and they were not seizures per se, as confirmed by an EEG….just all apart of my changing migraines. After a neurologist told me that I needed psychiatric help when I kept complaining about the side effects from the “newest” seizure med they had me on, I knew I was on my own. A friend from work told me that her Dr had told her about a Magnesium/Riboflavin (B2) combo that seemed to be helping her, I felt like I had nothing to lose by giving it a try. IT WORKED! The Mag Oxide was not overly helpful, but the Mag Citrate made all the difference in the world. I still get migraines, but they are functional migraines (worse around menses) – no nausea, no need to stay in a dark room, I can go to work, etc. But the hemiplegic and seizure type zone-out episodes are GONE completely. And I feel like I have my mind back – the fog that I had experienced while on Topamax and Zonisamide, etc has lifted. I CAN THINK AGAIN!!! I am going to try adding the CoQ10 and upping my Mag dose (I’m only doing 400mg) and see if that helps the menstrual headaches anymore. I always thought vitamin “pushers” were just plain weird (sorry), but here I am telling you it’s working for me!! Good luck.

  • Steven Oct 26, 2009

    I’ve been fighting 20-30 migraines a month for the past 2-3 years now. I’ve been on Topamax for the past 2 years at varying dosages. Maxalt 10MG and recently added Treximet to my line up. Since September of 2007 I was popping Excedring like candy, along the lines of 6-10 per day usually (unless I used a Maxalt). This past August of 2009 I had to detox from Rebound headaches for 2 months, which was a living hell. I would not recommend anyone over use excedrin or any medication. Please use as directed!

    After switching my GP and Neuro numerous times I took my fate in my own hands and decided to bite the bullet and order 3 bottles of Migrelief (it says you should give it 3 months to work before you give up on it). I’m sure magnesium isn’t the root cause for everyone. It’s been about a month now and I have weened myself off of my Topamax since starting the supplement to see what kind of results I would get. My first bottle is about 3/4 empty and I have had my first day without a migraine in about 3 months. The past 3-4 days the migraines I did have were little flys buzzing compared to the monsters I’ve been dealing with for the past few years. I have no idea what the future is going to look like as I’ve just started to notice the effects of these supplements but, it seems to be doing an amazing job. They sell it on Amazon.com and there are numerous positive reviews as well.

    I would also reccommend checking/adjusting your posture. I also noticed that I was breathing poorly through my nose, and breathing through my mouth helped alot (but was hard to consciously do this 24/7). I purchased a saline nasal irrigation kit which helped me breath out my nose (not sure if I have an alergy I’m unaware of or not).

  • Liz Nov 2, 2009

    Steven you sound just like me! I tried everything under the sun as well as multiple doctors and was at the end of my rope. I too decided to take things into my own hands and weaned myself off topamax and zonisimide, then later depakote. I now am ONLY taking supplements. Magnesium, feverfew and CoQ10. I still require prn dosing of imitrex, treximet and both oral and injected toradol (very occasional). Between these things, hydration, and avoiding my triggers i have had the most relief i’ve had in years. I still get maybe 7 or so migraines a month, but like you, it is much better than 25 and the severity is much decreased. I also saw an ENT and an allergist. I’m on mult meds to treat allergies as well which help. Holistics help, but i have not yet tried accupuncture which i keep being told to do.

  • Mary Croson Nov 18, 2009

    I have been having severe dizziness and balance problems for several years, i have had numerous hospital tests and have just been told i have severe balance problems!! there’s no treatment so basically ‘go and live with it’ so, after persistently asking to see a neurologist, i got a appointment, she seems to think i have migraine and has prescribed Amitriptyline, i haven’t started taking it as i didn’t think i had migraine, UNTIL, i read about basilar migraine, and it seems to describe my symptoms perfect, but now, i have come across this article about magnesium, but, does it help with this kind of migraine, i haven’t got bad headaches, but my main problem is bad balance when walking which is really restricting my life and making me very upset.

    • Linda Jun 9, 2011

      Hi I have also got Basilar migraine I get headaches but they are not my main problem. The in coordination which comes and goes without warning has bothered me all my adult life. I find it embarressing and upsetting and I wish there was a cure. I have been to see neurologists but they are very little help. I recently started taking topiramate but no difference in the basilar symptoms. I cant understand why someone cannot come up with a solution. there are times when I believe I should be registered disabled, then other times I am perfectly normal how frustrating. Do you also have problems with your speech, I sound like I’m drunk when I get it, in fact sometimes I cant speak at all. I am a registered nurse and when I get an attack in work which is a couple of times a week or more when I’m tired I have to hide in the loo till it wears off. I am going to have a meeting with my boss this week to explain why I have yet another two days off sick help :((

      I so sympathize with you xx

      • Rainey Sep 30, 2014

        I too have basilar migraines with gait problems. I suffered for 8 years with this before I was diagnosed by a neurologist at Loyola medical center in Chicago. He put me on Cymbalta, which is an antidepressant. I was very hesitant to start on it because, well, I don’t have depression, but I was out of options and I felt I had nothing to loose. I have to say, it has been life changing!! No more headaches and even better, no more dizziness, spaciness, or muscle weakness. It took several months to work, but it was well worth the wait. I take it twice a day and I feel like a different person! Hope this helps.

  • Dawn Nov 21, 2009

    I have Basilar type migraine whch wasn’t properly diagnosed for 30 plus years. I’ve not done well on Amitriptiyine … made my symptoms worse and put on a LOT of weight. Had some luck with Topomax but the side effects finally made it impossible to continue. Magnesium, feverfew, butterbur, Vit. B and CoQ10 are what I’m using to control the migraines – doing much better and NO side effects!!

  • Georgiana Dec 11, 2009

    I’ve known about the magnesium-migraine connection for a while, but didn’t realize the importance of taking the right kind. Looks like a trip to the health food store is in order!

  • Liz Dec 20, 2009

    Has anyone tried butterbur, B12 or riboflavin for control? I’m having the best control in years with my supplements (magnesium glycinate, C0Q10, Omega 3 and feverfew) but dont know how many more i can/should add. Always looking to improve!

    • Evie Nov 1, 2011

      I tried that butterbur stuff, petadolex, and it gave me the opposite reaction of what it was supposed to! I felt like I was going crazy and felt headachey all the time, so I sent it back. I do take an omega 3,6,9 combination (flax, fish, and borage oil) as well as mag citrate and riboflavin.

  • Edeglign Mar 23, 2010

    My younger brouther is suffer for Migraine for the last 15 years and he took so many tiypes of medicines ,still not improved and i read about magnessium and Co enzyme ,is it true and how i advised him to take it .thank you, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

  • Stephen Mar 23, 2010

    My neurologist told me that the key to dosing magnesium is to increase until it causes diarrhea and then back off until it doesn’t. I am up to 1250 mg and climbing but it is magnesium oxide so I don’t really know how much I am absorbing. It has done nothing to the frequency or intensity of the migraines. I will switch to citrate and see what happens.

  • Liz Mar 25, 2010

    yes, my doc told me having the right kind of magnesium is very important for absorption. I only take 400 mg of magnesium glycinate but it certainly helps. I could stand to take more, but honestly after 6+ mos of taking it, CoQ10, Omega 3 and Feverfew i have seen a huge difference! You really have to give it a long term chance. I have so much more control now and haven’t been to the ER in almost 2 yrs! Hardly ever have to use either my oral toradol or injectable. I had tried frova, relpax, topamax, zonisamide, as well as Depakote oral and a series of IV infusions of it that made me very ill. I tried many other drugs for arthritis, memory loss, even multiple birth control switches-all to help the migraines. I currently still take imitrex and treximet when i have a breakthru migraine. Works great. And i will swear by these herbal supplements as preventatives until i know any different!!

  • Tam Jul 4, 2010

    I have tried many prescribed medications including topomax. The side effects were not good. I am currently on cymbalta as a preventitive for my migrains and treximet to knock them out. I want to try migrelief because my doctor said I should be taking magnesium. Wish me luck. Does anyone know if migrelief counteracts the birth control pill?

  • Barbetta Mar 15, 2011

    I have been diagnosed with migraines now for 34 yrs and have been on all kinds of meds for them. I was put on imitrex when it came out and now that I am approaching 60 they want to take me off of what does the best for me. Now with me reading this about magnesium citrate I am going to start taking that and as well as CoQ10 with it. I take at least 10 shots a month and 9 pills a month of imitrex. I want to have less migraines and feel alot better of what I put into my system. So I will try this and see if it does work. Thank all of you with your comments !!

  • joseph Mar 20, 2011

    I recently say naturapathic (I think that’s the name!) physician regarding my migraines and the tests that he performed indicated very clearly that I was very low on magnesium. I had just been through an unusual series of migraines which has never happened before. So I am on magnesium. By the way, given the serial nature of what I was experiencing, I also went through 4 MRIs and a new round of blood work. The Naturapathic guy said it was not necessary, that if I had a tumor, anuerysm, any of that stuff, that it would show up on his tests. Didn’t really know whether to believe him. But actually, everything he has told me has been right on. Also, a vitamin b4 defiency which I am now correcting.

  • Patti Jul 20, 2011

    I’ve been taking 400 mg of Magnesium glycinate a day for 6 weeks now. I’m still having some pretty bad headaches. I was under the impression it had to build up in my system for 2 months before I’d notice any effects. Is this true? If not, should I try taking a higher dosage, or try the Ultra-mag?

    • James May 2, 2012

      I realize this is an old post, Patti, but for you or anyone else I’ll respond. It’s good to try something like this for 3 months if you can, at a steady dosage. Some people see results very quickly, but for other people it does take time.

  • MamaBear Aug 13, 2011

    Can anyone relate???
    I was diagnosed with Meneires Disease twio years ago. Been through a living HELL ever since then. Attacks are coming every 3-4 days. Knocking me right off my feet! Have had tons of tests and tried different meds–nothing rreally helped.
    I have recently seen another specialist–7 different ones now since this all began, and he believes I have some sort of Migraine thing happening.
    It all starts with my eyes–I get light headed, then, my eyes start to not focus properly, then the vertigo starts. Terrible imballance for many hours. Must sleep then for many hours and then, the problem is GONE!
    I am now taking Propranolol 80 mg daily.
    I thiank I am going to increase my daily Magnesium Citrate intake as well. I currently take just 150 mg daily. Maybe I’ll get some Co Q10 as well!?

  • Evie Nov 1, 2011

    I’ve been taking the Solaray brand of magnesium citrate from Whole Foods because it comes in a capsule which is more easily absorbed than a tablet. Liquid is probably better, but it had too many ‘ates’ in it and from my research the citrate is the best. I’ve been taking two in the morning and two at night, but have recently upped it to three at night and if I tolerate that I’ll go to three in the morning too. I also take 400 mg of riboflavin and until recently was taking 200 mg of Co Q10, but upped the dose to 400 mg and had some insomnia, which can be a side effect if the dose is too high (though I’m menopausal, so this probably didn’t help either), so I’ve backed off on that and will resume a lower dose when my sleep gets back to normal. I realy noticed a difference and though I’d still get migraines, they were less often and much, much more bearable. Take a look at what you’re eating too because things like sugar, dried fruit, and even too much fresh fruit can be triggers. I can’t even drink cranberry juice! White bread, bananas, and . . . well, just about anything, so keep a diary or be mindful of what your triggers are.

  • Dr Terranella Nov 22, 2012

    Thanks for the article. We frequently use Magnesium for numerous things in our practice including Migraines. Many people are deficient in it because of low levels in our food. We also give it IV for acute headaches. Cheers

  • Cliff Jun 28, 2015

    I was diagnosed with a kidney disease in late 2013. At the time I was told that I had had this problem for a year before being then discovered. I have read so much about magnesium oxide causing diarrhea but never had hat problem because at an early age I had ulcerative colitis and ended up having a good portion of colon removed. A second operation for adhesion strangulation at the bowel/colon reconnection site brought a lot of pain that was treated with Vicodin. It was then that I found that taking Vicodin has constipating effects. So, between the Vicodin, Welchol ( which is for cholesterol but also has constipating effects) and Lomotil. That may have counteracted the diarrhea effect of magnesium from being a problem for me.
    BUT, from about two weeks after being prescribed magnesium oxide and Calcitrol I started to get dizzy. Through the last year and a half it has gotten worse.
    I have been to two neurologists, had two sessions of PT, had an MRI brain scan, VNG and EMG tests, an ear specialist (that has a title that I can not even begin to pronounce let alone spell) and derived from the result of the VNG test that he as well as all the others I had been to that they could not find a cause nor help me.
    I get the sensation only when standing and/or walking – NEVER sitting or lying down or turning in bed. Sometimes turning my head or body, or tilting my head forwards or backwards brings on the sensation or intensifies it. I have tried Meclizine two time to no avail.
    On really bad days all I want to do is sit and sleep. I don’t know if the sleepiness is a result of the cause of the dizziness or a subconcious attempt to escape the hellish feeling!
    In May of this year I decided not to take any medicines – except those that I had been taking for years before the two newest prescribed meds -Magnesium and Calcitrol – to see if it took the lightheadedness away. It did to an extent. I was better than I had been in a long time but still had some slight feeling of dizziness/lightheadedness. When I went back on the full menu of meds, the feeling became serious again.
    In another attempt to find which meds were causing the feeling I stopped taking Welchol. It had no result on the dizziness but – for those taking that particular drug, you may find this interesting – my blood pressure went down without taking my BP med. About two days after starting back up on the Welchol – the BP went up and the pulse count went down.
    I want to go to my regular PCP to see what he has to say about the effect of Welchol on my BP. I had told him about it and he took blood to see where my cholesterol count was it was 179 and my good cholesterol was within the right range also.
    I can’t stay off of my Magnesium too long without fear of what is happening o my kidneys.
    I have to go to that doctor to talk to him about the possibility of either too much Magnesium – I am taking 6 tablets a day of 400 each for a total of 2400 mg’s a day – or too little of the drug causing this miserable feeling that is ruining my life.
    If you have had similar problems and found or not found a reason and/or just want to offer suggestions please answer me soon.
    I have an appointment with John Hopkins in late July but I fear that they are not going to be able to offer any hope for they are not aware that I have already had – to no avail- the tests that they are likely to suggest. Maybe they will be able to find a cause in one or a combination of drugs that I am taking. keep your fingers crossed and please help me if you can. Cliff

  • cliff Jun 28, 2015

    Forgot to mention in my last comments that Vicodin does seem to lessen the intensity of the dizziness for awhile. When it is really bad I can or feel like I can do nothing but rest. When it is slight I can seem to push thru it well enough to do some very vigorous manual labor such as yard work, moving furniture or running the sweeper etc. I feel really tired to towards the end of the job and feel like after a shower and change of clothes that I an going to want to pass out BUT I find that I am wide awake and do not feel as if I had done any of the work that I just finished – go figure!

  • MamaBear Jun 29, 2015

    Hello Everone,
    You can read a bit of my story just above here, that I wrote in 2011. I was sooo very sick back then. I was since diagnosed with a-typical migraine, and it is being well controlled now, after much tweaking, with Topamax. I have my life back!!

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