People who suffer recurrent headaches may find themselves in a bind. Taking medication day after day can actually lead to rebound headaches if the dose is missed. No wonder people would like to know how to control these headaches without medication, if possible.
Managing Recurrent Headaches:
Q. I have had a lot of trouble with headaches. Someone told me that magnesium tablets could relieve headache pain. Is this true?
Are You Deficient in Magnesium?
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). Magnesium seems to be especially helpful in preventing menstrual migraines (Neurological Sciences, June, 2010).
The evidence that magnesium can relieve acute headache pain, though, is inconclusive, though a review found it “probably effective” (Headache, Jan., 2015). Two cases of hard-to-treat headache responded well to magnesium therapy (Neurohospitalist, July, 2016), but we generally prefer actual studies over case reports.
Other Options for Treating Headaches:
There are other non-drug approaches that can be helpful, particularly for migraine headaches. They include riboflavin, butterbur, feverfew and Coenzyme Q10 in addition to magnesium (Headache, April, 2016).
You can find 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.