According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, migraine headaches affect 28 million Americans, 75% of whom are women. Migraine headaches cost an estimated $13 billion is missed work and reduced productivity each year. Back in 1991, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (January 1, 1991;267(1):64-69) there were 8.7 million women and 2.6 million men who suffered from moderate to severe migraine headaches. So there has been an increase in the number of Americans suffering from migraines in the last 20 years.
There is a fair amount of research that shows that magnesium supplementation may offer some relief for many migraine sufferers. An article appearing in Clinical Neuroscience (1998;5;24-27) pointed out that magnesium affects serotonin receptors and the synthesis and release of nitric oxide. One study, appearing in Cephalgia (1993;13:94-98) looked at the level of magnesium in the red blood cells of 90 migraine sufferers (30 with aura and 60 without aura) and compared it to 30 healthy, matched controls. Between headaches, the magnesium levels in migraine patients were lower than they were in the healthy controls. The patients who had migraines with aura tended to have lower magnesium levels than the patients who did not have an aura. An active headache did not change the magnesium levels in the migraine patients. Other research appearing in Cephalgia (1992;12:21-7) also found lower serum and salivary magnesium levels in headache patients when compared to healthy controls.
Research in the journal Headache (2001;41:171-177) looked at the effect intravenous magnesium sulfate had in treating acute migraine attacks. The subjects of the single-blind, placebo-controlled study were 24 women and six men who presented to a headache clinic. One gram of intravenous magnesium sulfate was given to 15 of the patients, with the other 15 receiving a placebo. In the group receiving the magnesium, 13 of the 15 subject experienced complete relief of pain, with the other two subjects experiencing a reduction in symptoms. In the placebo group, only one patient experienced a reduction in pain.
Research has also shown that magnesium supplementation may help prevent migraine headaches. A study that appeared in Cephalgia (1996;16:257-63) looked at 81 migraine patients experiencing a mean attack frequency of 3.6 migraines per month. They were randomly divided into two groups and given either 600 milligrams of magnesium per day or a placebo for 3 months. In the final month of treatment, the frequency of attacks in the group receiving the magnesium was reduced by over 41%, with the placebo group experiencing only a 15.8% reduction in migraine episodes. The patients receiving the magnesium were also able to reduce the amount of medication taken.