Doctors consider fibromyalgia a disorder or syndrome rather than a disease because it involves a collection of signs and symptoms that occur without any specific cause. Fibromyalgia affects the way the brain processes pain signals, which amplifies painful sensations and causes widespread pain and joint tenderness. The exact cause of fibromyalgia remains unknown, but because it involves abnormal nerve signals, some speculate the role that a magnesium deficiency plays in the disorder.
Role of Magnesium
Magnesium supports the normal function of nearly every organ in the body, especially the heart and kidneys. Magnesium also plays a vital role in transmitting electrical impulses from the nerves to the muscles. The Linus Pauling Institute reports that approximately 27 percent of all the magnesium in your body occurs in the muscle cells. Nerve impulses stimulate the muscle cells, causing the internal structure of the cell known as the sarcoplasmic reticulum to release calcium ions. This action triggers the muscle cell to contract. Magnesium ions, found in the fluid portion of the cell, then produce an electrical charge that propels the calcium back into that internal structure, which allows the muscle cell to relax. A magnesium deficiency can disrupt this process and interfere with normal nerve conduction and muscle contraction.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Early signs of a magnesium deficiency include a loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and behavioral changes. A magnesium deficiency can also decrease the level of other important minerals in the body, including calcium and potassium. Disturbances in the level of these minerals affect the ability of the nervous system to work properly. As the magnesium deficiency continues, it can cause additional symptoms, such as agitation, anxiety, restless leg syndrome, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood pressure, muscle spasms, weakness and seizures. Because of the association between magnesium level, nerve conduction and muscle function, magnesium may play a role in fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
The effect of fibromyalgia on joints and muscles causes a wide range of symptoms. The most noticeable symptom is the presence of chronic pain that feels like a dull ache. The pain may be felt anywhere in the body such as the back of the head, behind the knees, along the sides of the hips and at the top of the shoulders. The chronic pain causes sleep disturbances that lead to fatigue, a condition of tiredness that fails to resolve with rest. Patients with fibromyalgia often suffer from chronic headaches, depression, anxiety and irritable bowel syndrome. A study published in 1997 in the journal “Magnesium Research” reports that nearly half of the patients in the study with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or spasmophilia also suffer from a magnesium deficiency.
A small study on patients with fibromyalgia found that taking a combination of magnesium with malic acid for a two-month period may help improve the pain and tenderness caused by fibromyalgia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Although more studies need to be conducted to provide conclusive evidence of the use of magnesium to treat fibromyalgia, making sure you meet the daily recommended intake of magnesium may help to prevent the onset of conditions that affect the nerves and muscles. The Institute of Medicine sets the daily recommended intake for magnesium at 400 mg for men ages 19 to 30, 420 mg for men ages 31 and older, 310 mg for women ages 19 to 30, and 320 mg for women age 31 and older.
- Linus Pauling Institute; Magnesium; Victoria Drake; August 2007
- Institute of Medicine Food and Nutrition Board; Dietary Reference Intake Summary; 2004
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Magnesium; Stephen Ehrlich; June 2009
- “Magnesium Research”; Magnesium Deficit in a Sample of the Belgian Population Presenting With Chronic Fatigue; Moorkens, et al.; December 1997