If there is one condition for which modern medicine tends to fall short time-and-again, it’s pain. Whether your pain comes and goes or is with you 24/7, finding a safe and effective treatment is tough.
This is particularly the case for those who suffer from neuropathic pain, a unique form of pain that’s caused by damaged or poorly functioning nerves.
Unlike inflammatory pain, for which there are multiple drugs known to target inflammation, there are fewer effective medications for nerve pain.
Fortunately, there are natural supplements that can enhance the health and functioning of your nerves.
By targeting neuropathic pain at the source, these supplements can help to provide neuropathic pain relief long-term.
One of the best supplements for neuropathy is magnesium. Magnesium is a mineral that roughly 50% of us don’t get enough of through our diet. With magnesium critical for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, it may not come as a surprise that it can help improve our nerve health and function. Read on to learn why you should start taking magnesium supplements for nerve pain.
1. Magnesium Protects Against Diabetic Neuropathic Damage
Diabetic neuropathy is the leading cause of nerve pain. If you have diabetes, nerve damage can occur when your blood sugar levels are too high. Over time, this damage leads to nerve pain and other neuropathy symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, or weakness in your extremities.
In a meta-analysis of human clinical trials, researchers concluded that magnesium supplementation helped to reduce fasting plasma glucose levels in type 2 diabetes patients. (1)
Furthermore, a magnesium deficiency is implicated in the worsening of insulin resistance, which can lead to increased nerve damage as time passes. (2)
By reducing blood sugar levels and protecting against worsening insulin resistance, magnesium may help to avoid further damage to the health and function of your nerves, which may slow or even stop nerve pain progression.
2. Magnesium Reduces Our Sensation of Pain
Extensive clinical studies have demonstrated an analgesic effect of supplemented magnesium in humans. While much of this research has been directed towards muscle pain, recent research has revealed how magnesium helps in peripheral neuropathy and other nerve pain conditions.
There are several pathways through which magnesium can help relieve pain, including neuropathic pain. One of the primary ways is through controlling the release of a compound known as NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate). Increased release of NMDA is associated with high levels of perceived pain.
Magnesium has been found to decrease the receptor activity of NMDA-coupled channels. What this means is that magnesium can help to decrease the quantity of NDMA released, and thus reduce the sensations of pain that it evokes. (3)
Both animal and human studies have found magnesium supplements to reduce neuropathic pain. In a study of humans with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component, oral magnesium resulted in a significant reduction in pain intensity when compared to the control group. (4)
Simply taking an oral magnesium supplement may itself be able to provide pain relief, without the dangers of both traditional and prescription painkillers.
3. Magnesium Supports Healthy Nerve Function
Our nerve cells, also known as neurons, communicate with one another and with the rest of the body through an electrochemical process. Many of the symptoms of neuropathy, from tingling to pain, can be attributed either fully or partially to improper nerve function.
In one study, researchers discovered that peripheral nerve function was poor in diabetic patients with low serum magnesium levels. The higher the serum magnesium levels, the better the function of the peripheral nerve. (5)
This makes sense, considering magnesium is known to be critical for proper nerve transmission. (6) With few of us regularly getting the magnesium that our bodies require, supplementation may help to improve nerve function in those that are deficient.
4. Magnesium Supports Nerve Regeneration
Scientists have found that it’s possible to regenerate nerves affected by neuropathy. (7) When nerves are regenerated, benefits have been found in neuropathy symptoms and overall quality of life.
Because magnesium supplementation has demonstrated efficacy in boosting recovery from certain neurological disorders, researchers have begun to look into the effect of magnesium on nerve regeneration.
Multiple animal studies have used magnesium to treat sciatic nerve damage and pain. These studies have found that magnesium can induce the secretion of nerve growth factor, promoting nerve axon regeneration. Benefits were also observed in sciatic nerve function. (8,9)
While more studies are needed in humans to determine if magnesium supplementation can help to regenerate nerves damaged from neuropathy, these early studies give promise and reason for further studies.
5. Those with Diabetes are at an Increased Risk of Magnesium Deficiency
What’s more, diabetic patients are more likely than those without diabetes to be deficient in magnesium. (2) When your blood glucose levels are elevated, you excrete more magnesium through your urine, which leads to lower levels of plasma magnesium. Additionally, the diet of those with diabetes is often deficient in this mineral.
Because magnesium is important for optimal nerve health and function as well as controlling blood glucose levels and reducing diabetic neuropathy damage, diabetes patients should be sure that they are taking in more magnesium than is normally required.
6. Magnesium Deficiency Increases Risk of Developing Type-2 Diabetes
So, what if you have neuropathy but don’t suffer from diabetes? Most of us are deficient in magnesium. This deficiency is linked to insulin resistance, which then increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, which could exacerbate your nerve damage and related pain.
In a meta-analysis of studies examining insulin-sensitivity in those at high risk of type-2 diabetes, researchers discovered that magnesium supplementation led to improvements in insulin-sensitivity. (1) This improvement may help to lower the risk of developing diabetes.
If you do not currently have diabetes but you do have nerve pain, reducing your risk of developing diabetes will help to limit more extensive nerve pain as you grow older. This is because neuropathy is a common consequence of diabetes.
Magnesium supplementation as well as eating the right foods may help to slow the progression of neuropathy, reduce the pain that patients experience, and even boost the health, function, and regeneration of our nerves themselves.
With much of the population deficient in magnesium, particularly diabetic patients who suffer from diabetic neuropathy, these supplements may help to provide pain relief and improve overall health too.