Can Magnesium Deficiency Cause Neck Pain?

Neck pain is an exceedingly common problem, affecting up to 70% of people at some point in their lives. While there are many potential causes of neck pain, one factor that is sometimes overlooked is magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in muscle function, nerve transmission, inflammation, and more. Could a lack of magnesium contribute to neck pain? Let’s take a closer look.

What Is Magnesium And What Does It Do?

Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is necessary for energy production, blood sugar control, blood pressure regulation, nerve transmission, and muscle contraction and relaxation. Magnesium helps regulate calcium, potassium, and sodium levels as well.

Some key functions of magnesium include:

  • Synthesis of proteins, fatty acids, and neurotransmitters
  • Muscle relaxation and movement
  • Nerve conduction and neuromuscular transmission
  • Bone development
  • Immune system regulation
  • Blood glucose control
  • Blood pressure regulation

Magnesium is found abundantly in foods like dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans, avocados, yogurt, fish, and bananas. While it is available in many foods, surveys suggest that a majority of Americans may not get enough magnesium from dietary sources alone.

Magnesium And Muscle Function

One of magnesium’s main roles is in muscle function. It is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation. Without adequate levels, muscles can spasm and twitch. Low magnesium is linked to cramping, soreness, and tension in muscles.

Magnesium helps regulate calcium flow in muscles. Too much calcium without enough magnesium can cause muscle cells to stay contracted and tense. Magnesium helps muscles fully relax after contracting. It also allows enough calcium into muscle cells to stimulate contraction when needed.

Magnesium deficiency reduces energy production in muscles, which can impair muscle performance. With low magnesium, lactic acid builds up more readily in muscles causing fatigue and pain. All of these factors can contribute to muscular tightness and discomfort, especially in the neck where tension already tends to accumulate.

Magnesium And Inflammation

Another way magnesium deficiency may impact neck pain is through inflammation. Magnesium helps regulate the immune system and inflammatory response. Low levels of magnesium allow excessive production of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines.

Chronic inflammation is associated with widespread muscle aches and joint pain. Inflammation around the delicate tissues of the neck can pinch nerves, reduce range of motion, and worsen neck discomfort. Magnesium has been shown to reduce inflammatory markers like CRP and TNF-alpha.

Magnesium For Nerve Function

Magnesium is also essential for proper nerve conduction and neurotransmitter function. Nerves use calcium, sodium and magnesium to transmit signals. Without adequate magnesium, nerves can become overly sensitive and fire more readily causing pain symptoms.

Tingling, numbness, and radiating pain into the shoulders and arms can occur with nerve irritation in the neck. Magnesium supplementation has been found to improve neuropathic pain in some studies.

Risk Factors For Magnesium Deficiency

Certain health conditions and medications can increase the risk of magnesium deficiency and related neck pain. These include:

  • Gastrointestinal disorders – Reduced magnesium absorption
  • Diabetes – Increased magnesium excretion
  • Hyperthyroidism – Increased magnesium depletion
  • Older age – Less magnesium intake and absorption
  • Alcohol abuse – Magnesium depletion
  • Diuretics – Increased magnesium excretion
  • Proton pump inhibitors – Impaired magnesium absorption

If you suffer from chronic neck pain and have any of the above risk factors, magnesium deficiency could potentially be contributing.

Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency

Some signs and symptoms that may indicate magnesium deficiency include:

  • Muscle spasms, cramps, or tightness
  • Muscle twitching or tics
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Anxiety, irritability, nervousness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Leg cramps or restless legs
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration

Low magnesium levels can be detected with a blood test. Checking magnesium levels may be warranted especially in those with neck pain and risk factors for deficiency.

Can Magnesium Supplements Help Neck Pain?

Given magnesium’s role in muscle function, inflammation, and nerve transmission, it stands to reason that low levels could contribute to neck discomfort in some individuals. Research specifically on neck pain is limited.

However, numerous studies demonstrate the benefits of magnesium for other types of muscle pain like leg cramps and fibromyalgia. Magnesium supplements have also been found to improve migraine headache pain and frequency. More study is still needed, but the existing evidence is promising.

According to one 2018 review, magnesium supplementation was effective at reducing pain levels in various chronic pain conditions. The recommended daily intake for magnesium is 310-420 mg per day for adults. Most people do not experience side effects with magnesium supplementation when taken at recommended dosages.

In many cases, improving magnesium status through diet and moderate supplementation makes sense and is safe to try. Ensure adequate hydration when increasing magnesium intake. If symptoms of deficiency are present or neck pain is severe and persistent, checking magnesium blood levels may provide additional insight.

As with any supplement, consult your healthcare provider before starting a regimen, especially if you take medications or have impaired kidney function. While not a cure-all, optimizing magnesium intake may support neck pain relief when paired with other therapies like massage, stretching, heat/ice therapy, and anti-inflammatory medications or herbs. A nutrient-dense diet and active lifestyle provide the foundation.