Magnesium Has a Neuroprotective Effect
Excessive neurotransmitter release of glutamate and dopamine fuels excitation and hyperactivity. And, when too much dopamine becomes oxidised it generates hydroxydopamine – a neurotoxin.
Magnesium can come to the rescue. As well as controlling the stimulation of calcium in the firing neurons, it also relaxes muscles and blood vessels. Magnesium is used by the body to make Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA), which helps to relax and calm down the nervous system. Magnesium also opposes NMDA receptors to inhibit excessive neurotransmitter release.
In this way magnesium dampens down the excitation and stress response so the body can recover its resting phase, the parasympathetic mode. If you haven’t got enough magnesium to restore balance, your brain may get hooked in the excitatory phase way beyond what is needed. This causes production of excessive free radicals, which can inflame and destroy neurons. This is how excessive or chronic stress can burn us out and even cause mental health issues.
A migraine headache progresses as a result of a flood of stress neurotransmitters in the brain. In some cases, it is preceded by an aura, or electrical flashes around the visual periphery. Migraines can be accompanied by light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting as they get worse. They can even last for days.
Studies have shown that brain magnesium levels were significantly reduced in patients with all types of migraine, as well as in cluster headache patients. When migraineurs with low erythrocyte (red blood cell) magnesium levels, and decreased ionized lymphoycyte magnesium levels, were given mineral water containing magnesium over a two-week period, both erythrocyte and lymphocyte magnesium levels rose (Thomas et al., 2000).
Another study reported that, “Intravenous magnesium has an affect that is similar to or better than caffeine for treating acute migraines. After magnesium medication, the incidence of migraine attacks decreased significantly.” (Shin 2020)
There has been extensive research over many years showing magnesium’s powerful effects to relieve neuropathic pain. Regarding back pain, “When magnesium therapy was administered to patients presenting with low back pain with a neuropathic component, pain intensity reduced, and the range of motion of the lumbar spine improved.” So in addition to pain relief, magnesium also improved flexibility.
“Neuropathic pain and functional disability following spinal cord injury can improve with magnesium treatment… Neuropathic pain includes diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), cancer-related pain, trigeminal neuralgia, post-amputation pain, polyneuropathy, radiculopathy, and post-stroke pain.”
Fibromyalgia is a common chronic pain syndrome without a specific aetiology. Researchers are still baffled by how it comes about, but they observe its common symptoms of fatigue, depression and sleep disturbances. It is postulated that fibromyalgia is associated with increased levels of Substance P, which intensifies the pain of fibromyalgia. Magnesium deficiency can increase levels of Substance P, and replenishment with magnesium can reduce it and relieve symptoms.
Dysmenorrhea, or period pain, can be alleviated by magnesium supplementation, due it its anti-inflammatory and relaxation effects.
Surgery and Post-Operative Pain
Dependence has grown on strong opioids to control acute and chronic pain over the past decade, influenced by a rising epidemic of prescription opioid abuse, misuse, and over-dose related deaths. Surgery exposure to opioids is blamed as the most common way people are introduced and subsequently become dependent and addicted to them.
However, there are better ways to manage pain during and after surgery, which don’t have such debilitating consequences. Some anaesthetists are now using a combination of magnesium IV infusion together with conventional anaesthetic so as to reduce the amount of anaesthetic used.
They have found that, “The systemic administration of magnesium during general anesthesia significantly attenuates post-operative pain intensity without increasing the risk of adverse events.” Magnesium infusion also minimises the risk of allergic side effects and speeds up recovery time.
SUMMARY: Analgesic (Pain Relief) Effects of Magnesium
The primary mechanisms through which magnesium produces its analgesic effects are:
- As an antagonist and dampener of the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor ion channel in the spinal cord. The NMDA receptor plays a key role in central (nervous system) sensitization. Therefore, pain is felt more intensively, and sensitivity is increased when the NMDA receptor is activated.
- Relaxation of pressure via control of calcium: Magnesium blocks calcium channels and modulates potassium channels. It maintains membrane integrity, blood fluidity, arterial flexibility, and electrolyte balance.
- Anti-inflammatory effects: Low magnesium and increased calcium has been shown to trigger an inflammatory response due to phagocyte priming. Neutrophils and macrophages from magnesium-deficient rats were more easily triggered and generated more ROS, even without any stimulation. (Libako,2010) Increased magnesium, on the other hand, had an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Magnesium activates the nitric oxide (NO) pathway to dilate and relax the vascular system.
For maintenance of normal magnesium levels researchers suggest a daily ongoing magnesium supplementation of approx. 400mg. However, some patients recovering from injury may require higher doses of around 1000mg a day.
Transdermal magnesium can deliver more magnesium to cells than oral tablets and powders because it bypasses the digestive system, which is often struggling to digest supplements and foods due to the stress of injury and illness. With magnesium via skin, people can soak in it, or massage in the amount and concentration they need to feel a faster pain or cramp relief, and relaxation of muscles and the vascular system. It is very calming and helps to promote sound sleep too.
So remember, MAGNESIUM TREATS BOTH SYMPTOMS AND CAUSES of pain – without the negative side effects.