The Link Between Magnesium Deficiency and Nerve, Muscle Pain

Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions that keep our bodies going. Among its many duties, magnesium helps the heart pump, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar levels, strengthens bones, metabolizes energy, synthesizes protein and maintains nerve and muscle function.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 57% of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium. Researchers are currently assessing what role this deficiency could play in the prevalence of pain problems.

Muscle Pain

Taking in more magnesium can help combat muscle pain caused by tension. Magnesium plays a major role in the relaxation of muscles; it allows calcium into muscles when they need to contract and pulls it out when it is time to relax. Insufficient levels of magnesium means that calcium may build up in muscles, holding them in a state of tension.

Muscle tension is a common cause of back and neck pain. When tension exists for a prolonged period of time, muscles develop knots and have more difficulty relaxing. Myofascial pain syndrome, a condition characterized by the formation of knots in tight muscles and myofascia (the connective tissue surrounding the muscle), may result from chronic tension. This condition can cause localized and referred pain; it can also replicate itself in other areas of the body, since tight muscles grow weak and require other muscles to compensate for them, thereby making the compensatory muscles tense and weak, etc.

Getting sufficient amounts of magnesium through diet and/or supplementation will help prevent chronic muscle tension.

Nerve Pain

Magnesium may also help quell nerve pain. One study tested magnesium in the treatment of diabetic neuropathic pain in rats. Magnesium was found to decrease the number of receptors for a neurotransmitter called NMDA, which is responsible for carrying pain signals. By modulating NMDA communication, magnesium may interrupt pain signals in people with nerve pain from conditions like diabetes and sciatica. See more on the study at

Magnesium deficiency affects nerves in another way. Just as the mineral is important for relaxing muscles, it relaxes nerve endings as well. Low levels of magnesium can cause nerves to be overstimulated, firing in the presence of little to no stimuli. This may be connected to central sensitization, a condition believed to cause the widespread, chronic pain experienced by fibromyalgia patients.

See the chart at for information on recommended daily values of magnesium by age and sex. If you have kidney problems, ask a health professional before supplementing magnesium. Excess levels of the mineral can cause diarrhea; supplement wisely.

Magnesium can help eliminate nerve and muscle pain. Making sure your body has the nutrients it needs to function properly will help you stay pain-free.