Magnesium for Arthritis: Pros and Cons

Benefits, dosage, risks, and side effects

Magnesium is a nutrient your body uses for many tasks, like repairing cells and keeping your nerves and muscles working. Magnesium also helps keep your blood pressure and blood sugar levels stable.

One of magnesium's most important jobs is making sure your bones are strong: 60% of the magnesium in your body is in your bones and teeth.

Some studies have shown that not having enough magnesium can lead to inflammation, which can increase your risk of chronic diseases.

If you have arthritis, you're probably already familiar with bone health and inflammation. This article will go over what research says about whether magnesium is helpful for people with arthritis.

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Verywell / Laura Porter

What Is Magnesium?

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for your health. Your bones, teeth, and the spaces between cells (intracellular spaces) have magnesium in them

Our nerves and muscles need magnesium to work. The mineral also helps keep antioxidant levels and blood pressure in check. The body also needs magnesium to make proteins.

Food Sources

You can get magnesium by eating certain foods, such as:

  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flax
  • Bananas
  • Black beans
  • Brown rice
  • Flaxseed
  • Sweet corn
  • Oatmeal
  • Milk
  • Yogurt

Supplements

You can also get magnesium by eating foods that have had vitamins and minerals added to them (fortified foods). For example, many kinds of breakfast cereals and juices have magnesium added to them.

You can also use magnesium supplements. Some products can be used on the skin (topical) while others are taken as a pill like you would other vitamins (oral).

The supplement that's best for you will depend on how well your body can take up the magnesium from it. This is called absorption, and most of it happens in your intestines.

The types of magnesium supplements include:

You should also know that taking magnesium supplements can cause side effects. One of the most common side effects of oral magnesium is diarrhea.

Studies have shown that using Epsom salt and magnesium oil topically may help reduce the side effects of taking magnesium orally.

Recap

Magnesium is a nutrient your body needs for many different jobs. You can get magnesium from the foods you eat or by using supplements.

Benefits 

Magnesium may reduce inflammation, improve muscle function, and lower stroke risk. The nutrient has been shown to help people with certain health conditions, including type 2 diabetes and migraines.

People with arthritis may also benefit from magnesium. Having enough magnesium in your body is needed for bone density and bone development.

Some research has shown that magnesium might help lower the risk of arthritis and bone breaks (fractures). Specifically, magnesium glycinate has been shown to help with chronic pain, muscle flexibility, and bone health.

Recap

Your body uses magnesium to help keep your bones, nerves, and muscles healthy. People with type 2 diabetes, migraines, and some types of arthritis might find magnesium helps them manage their condition.

Low Magnesium Intake and Deficiency

Many Americans do not get enough magnesium in their diets. Studies have shown that about 75% of women consume less than the recommended dietary allowance (300 mg/day) of magnesium.

If you don't get enough magnesium in your diet, you can become deficient. There are also other factors that can lead to magnesium deficiency, including:

  • Consuming a lot of alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • A high-fat, high-sugar diet
  • Kidney failure
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. Chrohn's disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Medications (e.g. proton pump inhibitors, diuretics)

Signs of magnesium deficiency include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Numbness
  • Nerve damage
  • Fatigue

Recap

If you don't have enough magnesium in your body, you might have nausea, inflammation, or feel tired. Being deficient in magnesium can also lead to more serious problems like nerve damage or high blood pressure.

Sometimes, low magnesium levels happen because you aren't eating enough foods with magnesium in them. It can also happen if you have some medical conditions or lifestyle factors.

Magnesium and Arthritis

Arthritis causes inflammation in the body. Magnesium is known to reduce inflammation. Research has shown that the mineral may help people with inflammatory diseases such as different types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis. It usually affects the knees, hips,
and spine.

In OA, the tissues in the joints break down over time. The condition can be mild or severe—it depends on how much pain a person is in and how well they can do their daily activities.

Studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is a major risk factor for OA. It also affects the progression of the disease.

Some research has found that people with knee OA who had a higher daily intake of magnesium had a decreased risk of fracture. According to the study's findings, a person's intake of magnesium was not linked to a reduced risk of OA.

However, the researchers did not have a lot of data to go on for this study. More research is needed to understand how magnesium might help people with OA

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory and autoimmune disease. It affects the joints in the knees, wrists, and hands. People with RA often have chronic pain.

When RA affects the joints, they become inflamed. The inflammation can damage joint tissue over time. The lungs, heart, and eyes can also be affected by RA.

One study found that women who had higher amounts of magnesium in their diets were less likely to get RA. This could be because magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties.

Recap

Some research has shown that people with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis may benefit from magnesium in their diet or as a supplement. Since arthritis can cause inflammation, magnesium's anti-inflammatory effects might help some people with the condition.

Dosage

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sets recommendations for daily intakes of different nutrients, including magnesium.

Magnesium Daily Intake Recommendations
Birth to 6 Months 30 mg 
7-12 months 75 mg
4-8 years 130 mg
9-13 years  240 mg
14-18 years 410 mg (male)
360 mg (female)
19-30 years 400 mg (male)
310 mg (female)
31-50 + years 420 mg (male)
320 mg (female)

Risks and Side Effects

If you have too much magnesium in your blood it's called hypermagnesemia. Having too much magnesium in the body can cause side effects. 

Symptoms of having too much magnesium include:

  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness, reduced muscle tone (flaccid paralysis)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Numbness
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Seizures

Recap

Having too much magnesium in your body can cause side effects like muscle weakness and vomiting. It can also cause more serious problems like seizures.

Sticking to the recommended daily amounts set by the NIH will help you make sure you're getting the right amount of magnesium.

Summary

The body needs magnesium to function. Many parts of the body, from the nerves to the bones, need magnesium to work.

One of the things magnesium can do is reduce inflammation. For this reason, it might help some people with certain kinds of arthritis.

Magnesium can come from foods and/or supplements. Being deficient in magnesium can cause symptoms, but so can having too much magnesium.

A Word From Verywell

It's not clear whether magnesium can help everyone with arthritis. That said, we all need to have enough magnesium in our bodies to support our overall health.

You can get enough of this key nutrient from the foods you eat. However, if you're not getting enough from your diet, you can also ask your provider about trying a magnesium supplement.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Yvelette Stines
Yvelette Stines, MS, MEd, is an author, writer, and communications specialist specializing in health and wellness.