Magnesium Deficiency Can Cause Neuropathy

by Brandt R. Gibson, DPM on 5 September 2011

Although true magnesium deficiency symptoms are rarely seen in the United States, one symptom is becoming more linked to “insufficient” magnesium in the diet.  This symptom is peripheral neuropathy and often presents with the typical numbness and tingling caused by nerve damage.   Magnesium supplementation has been shown to both improve neuropathy symptoms and protect from peripheral neuropathy (even in diabetics).  Let me give a little background.

Why Is Magnesium Important?

Magnesium is an important mineral found throughout the body with involvement in more than 300 biomechanical processes in the body.  It is acutely involved with bone, including improved bone strength.  Has been studied as an important nutrient for muscle and nerve function and has even been linked to muscle cramps and muscle pain.   Some studies have even shown magnesium as a nutrient to help regulate blood pressure and blood sugar levels.  It is, therefore, found in every tissue and every cell in the body and must be sufficient to provide the necessary functions.  As we see regularly, one very sensitive cell in the neuron (nerve cell) and therefore even insufficient levels may cause nerves to malfunction (ie peripheral neuropathy).

Magnesium Deficiency

Although true deficiency is rare in the United States, the Office of Dietary Supplements has recommended supplementation, as dietary intake is often insufficient for all the functions of the body.  Disease processes have also been implicated with causing poor absorption of magnesium, such as Crohn’s Disease or Celiac Disease.  Alcoholism or Diabetes can also cause loss of magnesium through the urine.  Chronic diarrhea can also cause loss of magnesium stores.  Lastly, some medications may cause over excretion through the urine.  Whatever the cause, levels of magnesium insufficiency are being seen and should be treated.

Should I Supplement?

Although magnesium supplementation may cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, I would recommend it for anyone suffering from peripheral neuropathy.  If you have poor absorption diseases (Crohns or Celiac, etc.), poorly controlled diabetes or alcohol abuse, are on diuretics or some antibiotics, or are in an older age bracket, supplementation is even more strongly recommended.  This supplementation may improve your peripheral neuropathy, but might also reduce cramping and muscle weakness also.

Our recommended dosage for magnesium supplementation is 200-300mg per day.  To determine what dosage is best for you, however, it is recommended that you discuss this with your physician.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

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Solomon Osayi August 5, 2012 at 9:20 am

I have some irritating sensation somewhere at the back of my head most times and feel some tingling in m y leg muscles (as if I couldn’t stand or walk well or coordinate). What could be responsible or what can I do to alleviate or cure this problem? I would be grateful for some response. Thank you


Coy Cates July 4, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I had a back operation and a hip replacement last year (2012). After my hip replacement I had some Gout in my ankles. After a couple months it went away but my ankles were both numb. It has slowly gotten worse. My right foot is 60 % numb and my left foot is 10 %.
I have been trying Morning Primrose Oil but not having any success. I just started Magnesium today. I do have diabetes and was taking Byetta. I lost 100 lbs but the Doctors had me stop last December and I have gained 30 lbs back. It seems my pancreas is producing enough insulin that they feel I do not need it. I am only taking Metformin and a blood pressure medicine.
Any advice or suggestion would be very much appreciated.



Brandt R. Gibson, DPM September 24, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Back surgery and other bone type surgeries have been shown to lead to peripheral neuropathy and could be part of the problem. To evaluate this as a possible cause, nerve testing can be done. With a negative nerve test, the epidermal nerve fiber density testing should be considered for small fiber disease.

As far as treatment options:
- Discuss changing your diabetes medication from Metformin, as this has some neurotoxic (nerve damage) possibilities. Controlling diabetes is more important, so don’t stop this on your own.
- Evening Primrose Oil doesn’t work consistently, but is beneficial when utilized in conjunction with other treatments. It would be beneficial to have blood work to evaluate your levels of B12, B6, D, Thiamine, and other common vitamins for possible additional supplementation.

Remember that any treatment for your neuropathy should be carefully monitored by a physician as you could make things worse or cause other problems if not careful.


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