Clinical experience as well as research in nerve pain conditions such as pancreatic cancer have shown that magnesium can be an effective therapy. Although it is clear why magnesium can decrease muscle pain (it makes muscles relax) why it would help nerve pain was less clear. This study in rats confirms our clinical experience that magnesium decreases nerve pain — while also pointing to how it settles the pain.
A major mechanism of pain is the excessive stimulation of a brain chemical called NMDA. The few medications that help to decrease and balance this pain carrying neurotransmitter have the downside of causing significant side effects. Magnesium seems to settle down NMDA without the toxicity. The downside? Magnesium is very cheap and therefore unlikely to be promoted by drug companies anytime soon. Without a drug company pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into it, it cannot make it through the FDA approval process.
For an especially powerful effect, the magnesium can be used intravenously, and is routinely used by most holistic physicians. IV magnesium is the single most effective therapy to eliminate an acute migraine headache (short of cutting off one's head) and has even been shown to ease the incredibly severe nerve pain that can sometimes be seen in pancreatic cancer. It also is very helpful for settling down fibromyalgia pain.
The authors suggest that magnesium deficiency, which because of food processing is present in the vast majority of "modern" diets, can be a major amplifier of pain. If you have pain, a dose of 250 to 500 mg of magnesium a day (and even more if it does not cause uncomfortably loose tools) can start to decrease these deficiencies as well as the pain after several weeks — while also leaving your energy better and decreasing your risk of heart disease!
Magnesium is one of the over 50 nutrients in a good multivitamin powder. For those who get diarrhea from magnesium, sustained-release magnesium is very effective without causing this side effect. In addition magnesium oxide, though not as well absorbed, can be found for about a nickel per 500 mg tablet in most health food stores.
How to almost always get solid pain relief, using a mix of natural and prescription therapies, is discussed in my book Pain Free 1-2-3.
"Mg attenuates chronic hypersensitivity and spinal cord NMDA receptor phosphorylation in a rat model of diabetic neuropathic pain." Lusliany Rondon, Anne-Marie Privat, Laurence Daulhac, et al. The Journal of Physiology. Published online before print September 13, 2010, doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197004.