Learn more about how magnesium can work to prevent migraine attacks and who can benefit from it
The usual treatment plan for migraine includes lifestyle modifications, treatment of acute attacks and preventive treatments. The acute and preventive treatments for migraine include a wide range of prescription and non-prescription medications. However, there are some nutraceuticals (vitamin and mineral supplements) that can be helpful. Nutraceuticals, like magnesium, can be a great part of your treatment plan.
Introduction to Nutraceuticals
Nutraceuticals are vitamin and mineral supplements. The word “nutraceuticals” comes from combining “nutrition” and “pharmaceuticals,” as these supplements come from food and may provide a therapeutic benefit.
Research shows that 80% of people with headache disorders have tried some form of alternative treatment, such as nutraceuticals. The most common nutraceuticals used for migraine prevention include magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10).
Oral nutraceuticals are typically inexpensive and do not require a prescription. Many are generally safe with limited side effects. But do your research and be sure to discuss any supplements you’re interested in taking with your doctor.
In the U.S., officials consider nutraceuticals food, not medicine. This means companies making supplements do not have to prove efficacy and safety in the same way as companies that produce medications. It’s important to choose supplements that have backing from unbiased scientific research and come from trustworthy suppliers.
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium oxide is a mineral often appearing in pill form to prevent migraine. You would take this once or twice daily. You can also take magnesium during migraine attacks.
Magnesium (as magnesium sulfate) can also be given through an IV. Magnesium infusions can be very helpful for all types of migraine but seem to be most effective for people who have a history of migraine with aura.
How Does Magnesium Prevent Migraine?
In 2012, the American Headache Society and the American Academy of Neurology gave magnesium a Level B rating among medications used for migraine prevention. This rating means it is “probably effective” and is an option for migraine preventive treatment .
It’s believed that magnesium can prevent the brain signaling that causes visual and sensory changes associated with aura. It can also reduce or block pain-transmitting chemicals in the brain and may be helpful for brain blood vessels.
Who Should Consider Magnesium?
Because magnesium is extremely safe, anyone who experiences migraine may want to talk to their doctor about using it as a preventive treatment.
Due to the way magnesium works, it can be especially helpful for people who have migraine with aura. People with menstrual migraine also seem to benefit from daily magnesium.
What Are the Risks?
Magnesium is low risk and doesn’t typically have side effects. The most common side effect is diarrhea, which may work in your favor if you are prone to constipation. If a person experiences diarrhea or cramping, a lower or less frequent dose may still help prevent migraine while also avoiding these side effects.
Too much magnesium can cause an irregular heart rhythm, low blood pressure and memory issues. People with diabetes, heart disease, arrhythmia and kidney disease must clear its use with their doctor before taking it. Some antibiotics, heart medicine and diuretics cannot be taken with magnesium. It can also interfere with some medications used to treat osteoporosis.
If you are or become pregnant you should discuss magnesium treatment with your headache provider.
Because of its safety profile and low possibility of side effects, magnesium is often a great asset in a prevention strategy for people with migraine.
The American Migraine Foundation is committed to improving the lives of those living with this debilitating disease. For more of the latest news and information on migraine, visit the AMF Resource Library. For help finding a healthcare provider, check out our Find a Doctor tool. Together, we are as relentless as migraine.
Reviewed for accuracy by the American Migraine Foundation’s subject matter experts, headache specialists and medical advisers with deep knowledge and training in headache medicine. Click here to read about our editorial board members.