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Magnesium Supplementation for Migraine Patients

Magnesium is frequently discussed as a preventive therapy for Migraine. We know many Migraineurs live with a magnesium deficiency and that magnesium deficiency may promote cortical spreading depression, which is considered a key part of the initiation of the cascade of events in the brain that lead to a Migraine attack.

Unfortunately oral forms of magnesium (tablets or capsules) can be difficult for Migraine patients for two main reasons: (1) Side effects; and (2) Issues with our guts due to gastroparesis, which frequently results in low levels of absorption.

Fortunately, there are a number of other options for us to consider and try in order to find out if magnesium supplementation is helpful in preventing at least some of our Migraine attacks.

    Alternative options to oral supplements include:

  • Magnesium Sulfate IV
  • Magnesium Sulfate IM
  • Topical magnesium solutions
  • Foods rich in magnesium

Magnesium Sulfate IV

Magnesium can be delivered quite effectively and efficiently by IV. This would need to be done in an appropriate office or infusion center setting and requires cooperation from your doctors. Unfortunately, not all of them will understand or accept that this is necessary or appropriate. But for those under the care of Headache Disorders specialists who get it, it’s a great option.

Magnesium Sulfate IM

Magnesium can also be self administered by intramuscular (IM) injection. This option also requires cooperation of a knowledgeable specialist. It also requires willingness on your part to self administer injections. If you’re needle phobic, it might be a challenge.

Topical Magnesium Solutions

Magnesium solutions you apply to your skin can be a wonderful alternative to oral forms of magnesium. This option eliminates the obstacles of physician cooperation (though you should of course let your physicians know you are using such products) and needle phobia.

Types of topical magnesium solutions:

  • Liquid
  • Gel
  • Lotion

Getting good absorption of topical magnesium options is key to making sure you receive the full benefits of these products.

These are some easy ways to increase absorption of topical magnesium:

  • Increase the area of application.
  • Increase the amount of time the application is left on the skin.
  • Increase the frequency of application.
  • Vary the location of application, keeping in mind that areas such as the scalp and armpits exhibit higher rates of absorption.
  • Increase the temperature of the area of application.
  • Maintain well-hydrated skin.

I have no affiliation with the business, but have heard wonderful things from many fellow Migraineurs about the magnesium sulfate products offered by Ancient Minerals.

Finally, you might want to focus on increasing your consumption of magnesium-rich foods. As always, keep your food triggers in mind when determining which foods to consume.

These are some magnesium-rich foods and milligrams of magnesium per serving:

  • Almonds, 1 ounce (80 mg)
  • Spinach, 1/2 cup (78 mg)
  • Soy milk, 1 cup (61 mg)
  • Avocado, 1 cup (44 mg)
  • Plain low-fat yogurt, 8 ounces (42 mg)
  • Kidney beans, 1/2 cup (35 mg)
  • Banana, 1 medium (32 mg)

For reference, the daily recommended magnesium consumption levels for adults are:

  • Ages 19 – 30 years: 310 for females; 400 for males
  • Ages 31+ years: 320 for females; 420 for males

For Migraine prevention, higher levels of magnesium may be necessary.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Alexander Mauskop, et al. "Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium." J Neural Transm. 2012;119(5):575-9.
  2. Alexander Mauskop, et al. "Intravenous magnesium sulfate rapidly alleviates headaches of various types." Headache. 1996;36(3):154-60.
  3. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements, Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, updated November 4, 2013, accessed March 6, 2014.


    4 years ago

    I have friends who Magnesium supplements help their migraines, it works so-so with me. This is a good article though, there are about 8 different types of Magnesium and some work as laxatives and cause stomach distress. This was an interesting article and gave some good info.

    Story at-a-glance
    • An estimated 80 percent of Americans are deficient in magnesium. The health consequences of deficiency can be quite significant, and can be aggravated by many, if not most, drug treatments
    • Magnesium performs a wide array of biological functions, including activating muscles and nerves and creating energy in your body by attaching adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
    • Magnesium is very important for heart health. Excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to a heart attacks, strokes, and sudden death
    • An ideal ratio between calcium and magnesium is thought to be 1:1. The recommended daily dose is around 700 milligrams of each
    • Anytime you’re taking any of the following: magnesium, calcium, vitamin D3, or vitamin K2, you need to take all the others into consideration as well, as these nutrients work synergistically with one another

  • Ellen Schnakenberg
    5 years ago

    I’ve had the best luck with IV therapy along with CALM – a powdered mag supplement that mixes into a slightly tart liquid. For those of us who have trouble swallowing or absorbing things, this has been very helpful.

    My mag test restults remain on the low end of normal, illustrating that tissue levels can be difficult to get to normal ranges, so patience and perseverence is really important. Mag can be very helpful…


  • stacysillen
    5 years ago

    I have been using “chelated” magnesium, it’s a powder. The strength is made for horses but I only use a small amount, between meals. Absorption is supposed to be better.

  • Dr. Alex Mauskop
    5 years ago

    Thank you, Diana. It is always great to remind people of the benefits of magnesium. Up to half of migraine sufferers and 40% of those with cluster headaches are deficient in magnesium.
    A few additional suggestions.
    It is very difficult to self-administer magnesium sulfate intramuscularly because you need to inject a high volume of fluid (about 10 cc’s). It should be ideally injected deeply into the buttocks – 5 cc’s into each one. So, if you have a friend of a family member who can do it, then it might work. Intravenous is the best route, but it is hard to find a doctor to do it.

    Another way to use topical magnesium is by taking a bath in Epsom salts, which is magnesium sulfate. The more of it you put into the bath water, the better. A pound is a good amount, but even less can raise your magnesium level. But take these baths regularly.

    Some oral magnesium supplements get absorbed better than other. Magnesium glycinate or slow release forms (Mag Tab SR, Slow Mag) are sometimes better, but some of my patients do well even with magnesium oxide. And you do need about 400 mg a day.

    Migralex, the headache drug I developed to treat headaches acutely, contains magnesium oxide, but the absorption of this magnesium is very good and fast because of aspirin. Aspirin, the other ingredient in Migralex is acidic, which improves the absorption of magnesium. Magnesium oxide is very alkaline which in turn improves absorption of aspirin. Magnesium oxide is also an excellent antacid, so aspirin in Migralex is much less irritating to the stomach. You can read more about it at

  • Janet
    5 years ago

    Aren’t all the foods listed full f magnesium migraine triggers??? Except for spinach all. The rest I avoid like the plague??? Am I wrong….?


  • helrose28
    4 years ago

    I can’t eat most of the foods mentioned except some Soya Milk. I have just started on a Magnesium supplement. Testing it at the moment as some mineral/vitamin tabs can give me a migraine as well. x

  • chebbot
    5 years ago

    I started it for migraine prevention but didn’t notice a difference. I did find that it alleviated my IBS-like symptoms so I make sure to take it every night. I recently bought a bottle of magnesium oxide, which doesn’t seem to work as well as what I had before (and I’m not sure what it was.)I take 500-1000mg.

    I have a friend who takes it at the onset of a migraine and says that it helps tremendously.

    Another good way to get magnesium is Epsom salt baths. Your skin absorbs it better than your stomach.

  • Deborah Carver Hodges MD
    5 years ago

    Nice post about magnesium. It is a great supplement for prevention and treatment of migraines. for more information about other sources of magnesium see my recent post at

  • simplygourdjus
    5 years ago

    My Headache Specialist prescribed “Mag-Delay 64” to me upon my 1st visit with him. I take it twice daily. Mag-Delay is known for digesting in the small intestine. I’m now wondering if I should ask for more mg/day. ???

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