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April 2013

Magnesium May Ease Chronic Low Back Pain

Magnesium supplementation may reduce pain and improve mobility in people who have chronic lower back and nerve pain, a study reports.

Back and neck pain are the most common chronic pain conditions. Back and neck pain can arise from soft tissues, bony parts of the back and neck, and joints holding the spine in alignment. It can arise directly or indirectly from the discs in the back or neck, and it can occur when nerves and nervous tissue, normally protected by the bones of the spine, are compressed by those bones. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that leaves the individual suffering and/or incapacitated. Back pain can be acute (immediate) or chronic (long-term). Acute back pain usually gets better on its own without treatment. However, chronic back pain may require medication and/or surgery.

Magnesium is found in large amounts in the human body and is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions. Magnesium sulfate has a long history of use for the treatment of high blood pressure in pregnant women, and has also been studied for use in asthma, heart disorders, type 2 diabetes, hearing loss, and leg cramps.

In the current study, scientists evaluated the potential effects of magnesium for reducing chronic back pain. They enrolled 80 subjects who suffered from chronic lower back and nerve pain, all of whom received traditional treatment such as physical therapy, antidepressants, and pain relievers. In addition, half of the participants received magnesium through an intravenous (IV) infusion for two weeks and magnesium capsules taken by mouth for four weeks, while the other half received placebo during those six weeks.

The results suggested that the magnesium group reported significantly reduced pain, compared to the placebo group. They also reported significant improvement in spine range of motion during the follow-up.

The research team concluded that receiving magnesium through IV for two weeks and taking magnesium capsules by mouth for four weeks may help reduce pain and improve mobility in people with chronic low back and nerve pain. However, more studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.

Back problems are the most frequent cause of activity limitations in working-age adults. The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that about 85% of Americans experience back pain by age 50. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain. Two-thirds of American adults will have back pain during their lifetime. Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.

Each year 13 million people go to the doctor for chronic back pain. It is estimated that the condition leaves 2.4 million Americans chronically disabled and another 2.4 million temporarily disabled. Back pain is the second most common reason why individuals in the United States seek medical care from their primary care physicians.

For more information about back pain, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
  2. Yousef AA, Al-deeb AE. A double-blinded randomised controlled study of the value of sequential intravenous and oral magnesium therapy in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Anaesthesia. 2013 Mar;68(3):260-6. doi: 10.1111/anae.12107. Epub 2012 Dec 17. 

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