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Magnesium for Arthritis Pain

Magnesium sources

Magnesium for arthritis pain - does it help?

Magnesium is a mineral that is mostly found in our teeth and bones and the rest in our soft tissues. It helps our body make protein, produce energy and helps with contracting our muscles. 

I can still remember whenever someone would mention they had cramps that the automatic solution was magnesium. Nowadays, there is more information about magnesium being good for constipation and for relaxation. It can even help with blood sugar and blood pressure control. Who would have thought magnesium could be so beneficial in so many different ways. 

This made me start to wonder if eating high magnesium foods could help with arthritis pain. They say approximately 40% of Canadians with arthritis are experiencing pain (1). When I experience a flare-up, the pain is awful. It’s so hard to tell my kids I can’t do certain activities with them because of the pain. I am always looking for ways to help manage and minimize my pain.

Can magnesium help with arthritis pain? Keep reading to find out the answer.

What causes arthritis pain?

One reason for arthritis pain is when our body produces these inflammatory proteins called cytokines (2). They have a role in the development of osteoarthritis (2). When the amount of cytokines increases, there is more damage to our cartilage which leads to inflammation and joint pain (2).

Can magnesium help with joint pain?

One study found that people with a low magnesium intake (less than 167mg per day) from diet had worse knee joint pain and less physical function (3). The amount of magnesium recommended per day for adult women is 320 mg and for adult men is 420mg (4).

On the other hand, those who had a higher magnesium intake from diet or supplements had less joint pain and more physical function (3). The study did not mention the type of magnesium supplement that people were taking.

How does it help?

Pain sensitization

Magnesium helps to block the activation of a receptor called NMDA (N Methyl D Aspartate) (3, 4, 5). 

When magnesium levels are low, this receptor is more active which causes more inflammation in the body (15). As a result, a person can become more sensitive to pain and can experience a greater response to pain (pain sensitization) (3).

Magnesium is found to block NMDA receptors which helps to reduce pain (3).


There is a marker for inflammation and it’s called C-Reactive protein (CRP) (5). Higher levels of CRP may predict the progression of osteoarthritis (2). 

So, how does magnesium fit in? Adults who have a low magnesium intake are more likely to have a high CRP level (3, 6, 5). While those with a high magnesium intake had lower CRP levels (6,5). Magnesium was found to help lower inflammation (5).

Causes for low magnesium level

A study found that approximately 64.2% of women and 82.7% of men with osteoarthritis consumed less than recommended amounts of magnesium per day (3).

  1. Eating processed foods
    In 2015, 45.7% of Canadian’s total energy intake came from ultra processed foods (7). 

    These foods tend to be higher in sugar, saturated fat and sodium and lower in fibre, protein and micronutrients such as magnesium. Examples include soft drinks, chips, chocolate, candy, ice-cream, sweetened breakfast cereals, packaged soups, chicken nuggets, hotdogs, fries.
  1. Processing procedures
    Food processing procedures such as milling removes the two outer layers, the bran and the germ, from grains which reduces the magnesium content (3).
  1. Medications
    Some medications can reduce the absorption of magnesium. An example is a proton pump inhibitor (PPI) which is  used to treat symptoms of acid reflux (9). Brand names of PPI are: Nexium, Prilosec and Prevacid. 

Other medications can increase the amount of magnesium that is excreted in your urine. An example is diuretics (water pills), which are used to treat high blood pressure and congestive heart failure (9). Brand names of diuretics are: Lasix, Aldactone.

Note: Please speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your medication and your magnesium levels.

Sources of magnesium


Magnesium food sources include:

  • seeds – pumpkin, hemp, flaxseed, chia
  • nuts – brazil nuts, almonds, cashew
  • beans – navy, black-eye peas (cowpeas)
  • fruits and vegetables – cooked spinach or swiss chard, avocado, prickly pear


There are many types of magnesium supplements. Some of the most common ones include:

No specific type of magnesium supplement was recommended in the studies. Please speak to your doctor or dietitian before starting a magnesium supplement.

Final thoughts: Is magnesium helpful for arthritis pain?

While the research is limited, there is evidence that a higher magnesium intake can help reduce joint pain from arthritis and reduce inflammation. In addition, magnesium can help with constipation and relaxation. I will definitely be adding some magnesium rich foods to my meals. I will start by adding  flaxseed or chia seeds to breakfast and maybe sprinkle some nuts on my salads. Nothing too complicated or overwhelming to start. There are so many ways to increase your magnesium intake throughout the day with simple additions to your current meals. If interested in learning more about how to add more magnesium-rich foods in your day – contact me.

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