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Can Magnesium Pills Counteract Recurrent Headaches?

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Q. I have had a lot of trouble with headaches. Someone told me that magnesium tablets could relieve headache pain. Is this true?

A. Some research shows that magnesium deficiency is fairly common among people who suffer repeated migraine headaches (Journal of Neural Transmission, May 2012). Correcting a deficiency with magnesium supplements seems to be helpful in preventing them (Expert Review in Neurotherapeutics, March 2009). The evidence that magnesium can relieve acute headache pain, though, is inconclusive (European Journal of Emergency Medicine, online, Aug. 5, 2013).

There is more information on non-drug approaches to head pain prevention and treatment in our Guide to Headaches & Migraines.  One thing to be wary of with recurrent headaches is medication overuse. Taking a pain reliever more than two or three times a week can result in analgesic withdrawal headaches. We have discussed this problem in detail with Dr. Joel Saper of the Michigan Head-Pain and Neurological Institute and Dr. Alan Finkel of the Carolina Headache Institute.  

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One thing that most people suffering from headaches don't consider is their physical structure.

I had a serious fall in '88 and learned this the hard way. I landed on the back of my head. I was disabled for many years until I found the solution to the head/neck problems. My skull bones were jammed together and cranial manipulation unstuck them and so I was finally lucid and my brain had enough room. Yes, the treatment has to be repeated occasionally.

The therapy that solved the headache problem was the manipulation of the first few cervical vertebrae. Unfortunately most chiropractors don't know the therapy. A Pettibon Chiropractor solved that issue for me and I have not had a migraine type headache since the second year of treatment. Yeah, it took that long because I'd been disabled for 14 years before getting the right treatment.

I had been to numerous Orthopedic physicians, physical therapists, Neurologists, Acupuncturists, and other Chiropractors.

While I will not dispute that many people suffer from recurrent headaches as the source of medication overuse, I am not one of them. I know others who also do not suffer due to medication overuse. Yes, we are in a minority. However, what holds true for many does not hold true for all. Frankly, I'm tired of beating my head against the wall of doctors who universally believe this dicta. I suffer from chronic cluster headaches. Without triptans, I would be dead or disabled. There are days when I do not take any headache meds, other than for pain in my neck due to arthritis and ruptured disks (less meds as time goes on for these problems).

I have no control over the genetics in my family which involve migraines and cluster headaches. I've followed this path to my grandmother (I'm in my 60s.) and then downstream, to my three sisters, to my daughter and grandson, four out of eight nieces and nephews, to my cousin's children (our grandmothers were sisters), and to similar physical conditions other than headaches. Clusters are notoriously difficult if not impossible to control by all the methods used to mitigate or prevent migraines. I've had three different neurologists acknowledge this and treat me with primarily triptans, which if taken soon enough WORK, and have worked for 20 years.

I've tried butterbur, turmeric, magnesium and 5 mg melatonin, among other "natural" products. I cannot say that any work, although small amounts of the above in combination do mitigate the intensity as far as I can tell. Thyroid issues can be a contributing factor. High doses of B-complex, especially B-12 have decidedly helped.

I'm in a similar situation as RH and have been on triptans for about 20 years as well. I am 65. I really want to get off them. I am currently going for monthly therapeutic massage and presently wearing Invisalign braces for malocclusion and some front crooked teeth but not bad. Anyway one or both so these have decreased my migraines by about 90%. I cannot believe how great I feel being almost migraine free after suffering headaches most of my life.

I had been suffering from migraines since I was 12 years old. I had suddenly began to suffer from constipation as well. After I learned my food triggers for migraines (FINALLY @ 50 years of age!) and that did help, but if a low pressure weather system visited my area, I would get a raging migraine... what can one do about the weather?

OK, back to the constipation problem, I started taking amino acid, chelated magnesium, 250mg, 3 each every night before bed (this is an EarthFare brand). No more constipation, but better yet, I have not had a migraine in literally months!

If I do wake up in the morning w/ a twinge of one coming on, (rarely) I pop one B.C. Powder, (be careful of that stuff... rebound headaches you know) and dab some peppermint oil on my trigger points (temples and back of neck) and it goes away immediately. Hope it helps you as it helped me. Best wishes.

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