Migraine Treatment Series: Oral and Topical Magnesium

I have taken magnesium for migraine prevention on and off for many years.  This time last year, I saw my neurologist, who was upset by the increased frequency of my migraine attacks since my previous visit. She asked me to please consider going on preventive medication again.  I explained to her that I really didn’t want to go on a daily prescription drug again (I’ve had a lot of side effects from preventives and, to be honest, I am growing more and more wary of putting chemicals in my body regularly, even if they are FDA-approved.)  She conceded and asked me to consider starting up my magnesium and B2 routine daily.

A trip to the health store

After that checkup appointment, I headed to my local health and wellness store, Alps Nutrition. I had gone to chain vitamin stores before but have found that the locally-owned, independent shops have staff that really know their stuff.  The manager of the store immediately found the vitamin (B2) and mineral supplement (magnesium) that I needed and I was on my way.

I mentioned that I’d taken both magnesium and B2 (aka riboflavin) before. I somehow had forgotten that magnesium pills give me intestinal pain and diarrhea. Oops. I kept taking them for awhile before realizing the connection. At my next appointment, I asked my doctor about topical magnesium spray or cream.  I had used something called Zyclear before to treat early-stage migraine attacks (it worked or even just staved off the full onset of migraine about two-thirds of the time!), so I knew that non-oral forms existed.  My doctor did some research to make sure that the creams and sprays showed fewer intestinal side effects and then gave me the all-clear to use topical treatment instead.

Trying to find the right dosage

One problem with that, though: the only way to know how much magnesium I’m putting on my skin is for me to buy the prescription magnesium my neurologist called into the pharmacy for me. But since topical magnesium in varying strengths is available over the counter, my insurance company won’t pay for the measured prescription tube that contains instructions.  I bought some concentrated magnesium spray from Alps Nutrition and then talked to my neurologist, the pharmacist, and the manager at Alps to see if we could figure out how many sprays equaled the amount of magnesium I was supposed to put into my body each day.  None of us could figure it out since the spray mechanism itself isn’t calibrated.  I’m pretty good at math and still couldn’t figure it out, so now I just pump a few sprays on my neck and shoulders twice a day and hope that’s enough.

I got tired of not knowing if I was using enough, and then I realized I had a nearly full bottle of magnesium pills in my medicine cabinet.  “I’ll just go back to this,” I thought, and deposited the capsules into my pill box so I’d remember to take my supplements each day.

An adverse reaction

That entire week, my stomach was a mess. Don’t read the next line if you’re squeamish: I had diarrhea multiple times a day and my tummy felt tight and pinched.  I had just recently gotten over a cold virus and thought maybe the flu was on its way.  Self-pityingly I moaned, “What’s wrrrooonnnnggg with meeee? Owwwwiiiiieee!”

Suddenly it came to me, like a vision! An epiphany! Duh! I was taking oral magnesium again even though I had strong suspicions it caused diarrhea and upset stomach in the past.  I felt pretty dumb, but thank goodness I figured it out. I stopped the oral magnesium, returned to the non-regimented spray, and the diarrhea and stomach pains were gone within a day.

In conclusion...

So, you wonder. What’s the point of all this? Can’t you just tell us if magnesium is working for you as a preventive?  Well, dear readers, I can’t.  I have had a crappy migraine time the last many months and think there are too many factors and triggers around for me to definitively say if magnesium and B2 are helping me. For now, pending my neurologist’s agreement, I’m going to stay the course and see how things go.  And if any of you have a source for topical magnesium that is affordable (not $75+ as it is through my insurance) and measurable (so I actually know how much I’m putting into my body), please share your knowledge!

As a side note, I now have a clawfoot tub and take at least one Epsom salt (aka magnesium sulfate) bath a week, and that can sometimes stop a migraine in its tracks if I take a soak pretty soon after my aura shows up.

Do you take magnesium for migraine, or have you ever? Does it help with your health? How about Epsom salt baths or soaks? Share your stories below! 

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

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