Can Magnesium Help Relieve Sciatica Nerve Pain?

Sciatica nerve pain can be debilitating. You may not be able to sleep, walk around, exercise, or stand for longer than a few minutes. Depending on where the sciatic nerve is being compressed, you might have shooting pain, numbness, muscle weakness, and other symptoms affecting the lower back. Sometimes, the pain is felt in the hips, buttocks, hamstrings, or calves, notes the Cleveland Clinic. These issues are more likely to occur in people who are overweight or obese, have weak core muscles, or do physical work. You're also at risk if you have arthritis or diabetes.

Contrary to popular belief, sciatica is not a disease, but a symptom. In some cases, it may result from degenerative disk disease, spinal stenosis, or piriformis syndrome. Herniated or slipped discs can compress the sciatic nerve, too, causing pain and discomfort. Another potential cause is cauda equina, a condition that may lead to bladder or bowel incontinence, explains the Cleveland Clinic.

On the positive side, sciatica nerve pain often goes away by itself. Regular exercise, physical therapy, acupuncture, and yoga can speed up healing and make it easier to manage your symptoms, says WebMD. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe painkillers, muscle relaxers, or epidural injections. Certain dietary supplements can help, too, but it may take some trial and error to figure out what works for you. A good example is magnesium, an essential mineral that supports nerve function.

Should you take magnesium for sciatica pain?

Magnesium plays a key role in over 300 enzyme reactions involved in muscle and nerve function, metabolism, protein synthesis, and other biochemical processes. About 60% of it is stored in the bones, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Clinical evidence suggests that magnesium supplements can relieve nerve pain and relax the muscles, says integrative medicine physician Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum. The effects are even stronger when magnesium is administered intravenously, Dr. Teitelbaum tells Psychology Today.

This mineral regulates the nervous system, but there's not enough evidence to confirm its efficacy for the treatment of sciatica pain. A 2011 study published in Magnesium Research found that high-magnesium diets improved neurological function and reduced inflammation in mice. What's more, this nutrient increased nerve regeneration in animals with sciatica. Other studies indicate that magnesium may benefit those with peripheral nerve injuries due to its anti-inflammatory effects, according to a 2021 review published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. However, these findings are based on animal research and may not apply to humans.

So far, we know that magnesium may improve nerve health and bring down inflammation. Unfortunately, it's not a cure for sciatica nerve pain. You may still need physical therapy, medications, and other conventional treatments, even if you take a daily magnesium supplement. As a rule of thumb, stick to 350 milligrams per day, recommends the NIH. Large doses can lead to diarrhea, but the excess is usually excreted in the urine.