Have you ever stretched to reach for something on the shelf and thought to yourself: "damn, I'm getting old."
Perhaps you were playing with your grandchild and couldn't keep up because of consistent joint pain.
Or maybe, in your case, you suddenly noticed that you don't have your usual range of motion when playing sports on the weekend. Every turn and movement is stressful, and joint pain is too much to handle consistently.
While old age invariably affects our physicality and mobility, other factors may make your joint pain worse than others in your age range. One such potential factor is your magnesium intake.
Low levels of magnesium can directly or indirectly cause joint pain. Magnesium deficiency can cause calcium-based crystals to enter the joints and damage the cartilage, causing the bones to rub against each other. The friction between the bones is what causes the pain.
Below, we explore if and how magnesium may make you more susceptible to joint pain. Furthermore, we provide some benefits of taking magnesium supplements, especially relating to bone and joint health, and much more.
Understanding magnesium and joint pain
Magnesium plays many vital roles in the human body. In addition to regulating your heart’s rhythm and blood sugar levels, the trace element is critical in strengthening bones and ensuring your nerves and muscles function well.
Magnesium-based calcium (Ca)-phosphate has been found in cartilage tissues. Cartilage is the flexible connective tissue between bones. This connective tissue reduces the friction between bones and also serves as a shock absorber when you flex and exert your bones.
Cartilage wear and tear over time leads to osteoarthritis (OA), and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, OA can cause joint pain.
Without digging into scientific publications, we can already connect the dots between magnesium intake and joint pain. Now, let’s dive deeper into the science to establish this connection.
Let’s start with how essential magnesium is for joint health.
Magnesium and joint health
In a study investigating the association between magnesium intake and knee joint pain and function in radiographic knee osteoarthritis, the researchers found a strong correlation between the two variables.
The researchers analyzed data from 2548 participants with prevalent radiographic knee OA. They followed the participants for 48 months, recording their magnesium intake.
The subjects with lower magnesium intake recorded worse knee OA pain and function scores versus those with higher intake. This correlation remained strong even after adjusting the data for other factors such as age, fiber intake, medications, race, and more.
The researchers concluded that “lower magnesium intake was associated with worse pain and function in knee OA, especially among individuals with low fiber intake.”
But what could make a lack of magnesium have a high correlation with joint pain?
- Magnesium plays a key role in calcium absorption. Adequate calcium is essential for building healthy bones. Healthy bones are strong and have a high mineral density. Such bones are less prone to fracture or osteoporosis.
- Magnesium also regulates the body’s responses to oxidants and inflammation. Inflammation causes joint pain, so there’s a clear association between the two.
How cartilage damage leads to joint pain
With age, it’s normal for cartilage to show wear and tear. When this happens, scientists call it primary osteoarthritis.
But people’s cartilage in some areas of their body may endure more wear and tear than normal, sometimes due to other forms of arthritis, deposition of calcium-based crystals in the joints, injuries, and trauma. This form of degradation is called secondary osteoarthritis.
It’s important to note that damaged cartilage itself doesn’t cause pain. What happens is that the more worn out the cartilage is, the less it can offer its shock-absorbing and lubricating functions.
As such, rather than the cartilage at the end of each bone sliding and gliding over each other, the bones begin to grind against each other.
Bone-on-bone interactions cause friction, leading to inflammation, pain, swelling, and other potential abnormalities. That’s where the discomfort and pain come from, especially when you move the affected joints.
Risk factors of osteoarthritis
In addition to some of the causes we highlighted above, other risk factors that can make you more prone to osteoarthritis than others include:
- Age: It’s natural for cartilage to wear out with age
- Postmenopausal women: The incidence of OA is higher for women during and after menopause
- Obesity: Per the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center, “overweight women have nearly four times the risk of knee OA; for overweight men, the risk is five times greater.”
- Diabetes: Multiple research studies have pinpointed type 2 diabetes as a risk factor for developing OA. There’s a strong linkage between having type 2 diabetes and the risk of becoming obese.
- High cholesterol
- Autoimmune diseases that affect joints
Is magnesium effective for joint pain?
We stated earlier that one of the most common reasons for joint pain is OA, characterized by worn-out cartilage. While magnesium does not fully replace worn-out cartilage, it can improve their condition and, consequently, reduce chronic pain.
A study of 783 subjects participating in the Osteoarthritis Initiative showed that those who received higher magnesium intake experienced the following:
- Substantial increase in cartilage thickness
- Significant increase in cartilage volume
These changes were experienced in different regions of the bones, including the medial tibia, central medial femur, and the central medial tibiofemoral compartment.
Per the authors of the study, “In conclusion, an increased magnesium dietary intake is associated with a better knee cartilage architecture, also when adjusting for potential confounders, suggesting a potential role of Mg in the prevention and treatment of knee OA.”
Other studies in mice have shown magnesium’s effectiveness in reducing arthritis severity and joint damage.
For example, the authors of this study found that administering magnesium chloride reduced pain and cytokines. A decrease in cytokines is essential for reducing inflammation and aiding pain relief.
Furthermore, another study weakly established the importance of a low-inflammatory diet in managing arthritis. According to the research, a low-inflammatory diet may reduce the presence of inflammatory biomarkers.
Having high anti-inflammatory qualities, you should add magnesium-rich foods to your diet if you have arthritis or are at risk of developing the disease.
What is the best type of magnesium supplement for bone health?
The best magnesium supplements for bone health are the ones that are bioavailable and readily absorbed by the body, including options like orotate, glycinate, taurate, and malate. This factor determines how quickly your body can reach adequate magnesium levels.
Studies have shown that the magnesium oxide and magnesium sulfate forms are less absorbed and bioavailable than other forms. For the other types, the gain in absorption is not significantly different enough to warrant a selection headache.
That said, orotate, glycinate, taurate, and malate are non-laxative and do not disrupt your daily activities.
Now, let’s describe the magnesium supplement best for bone health. There are numerous forms of magnesium supplements, but we’ll discuss the best five.
1. Magnesium citrate
Magnesium citrate comes from a combination of magnesium and citric acid. Citric acid scores very highly on the bioavailability scale, which means it’s readily absorbed by the body.
This property makes magnesium citrate one of the most common forms in some magnesium supplements. However, one of the reasons some reputable supplement makers avoid this form of magnesium is that it also acts as a laxative.
So, you may experience diarrhea or frequent stooling if you have a sensitive stomach. Some people may use the citrate form and not experience the above symptoms.
Additionally, while lowering the dose may reduce the side effects, doing so does not help you increase your magnesium levels quickly enough to alleviate joint or knee pain.
2. Magnesium glycinate
The term glycinate comes from combining magnesium with glycine. Glycine is popular within the cancer, diabetes, and inflammatory diseases community for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Glycine can also enhance sleep and other neurological functions. Its combination with magnesium provides a potent multifunctional supplement.
Magnesium glycinate is a better option than the citrate form since it doesn’t have laxative properties.
3. Magnesium taurate
Magnesium plus taurine gives the magnesium-taurate combo. The human body naturally produces taurine. Some of its functions include supporting your immune health and nerve function.
As such, magnesium taurate also helps with stress reduction and improving your cardiovascular health.
Additionally, taurine has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. It has been explored as a treatment for diseases such as OA, rheumatoid arthritis, and increased knee pain.
4. Magnesium malate
Magnesium malate is the result of combining magnesium and malic acid. Malic acid is common in many fruits like apples, pears, and some vegetables.
Malic acid helps the body produce energy, so taking this form of magnesium may help alleviate issues related to fatigue, another common symptom of most types of arthritis.
Moreover, malic acid also works as an antioxidant agent, which potentially helps with inflammation.
Want to know the best vitamins you can take to increase your energy? Read: 10 Best Vitamins for Energy (Read This First!).
5. Magnesium orotate
Magnesium and orotic acid produce magnesium orotate. In addition to helping raise serum magnesium levels, magnesium orotate offers other benefits.
For example, it can help treat stomach-related issues like acid indigestion and stomach upset.
Additionally, this form of magnesium supplement is also great for falling asleep quicker and avoiding disruptive sleep cycles. The Sleep Foundation even classifies magnesium as a natural sleeping aid.
Other forms of magnesium, like magnesium chloride and magnesium sulfate (epsom salt), are readily applied topically on the skin. For example, you may use Epsom salt to soothe muscle pain.
With WhyNotNatural’s 4-in-1 Magnesium Complex Supplement, you don’t have to worry about which magnesium supplement to buy. This supplement combines magnesium glycinate, magnesium taurate, magnesium orotate, and magnesium taurate for the quickest and most optimal absorption.
What is the recommended magnesium dosage for joint health?
Per this study, the optimal range of magnesium intake for reducing inflammatory response is between 181 and 446 mg per day.
The study followed 13,324 women, with 12,306 of the participants already diagnosed with RA. The researchers found a U-shape between magnesium intake and RA prevalence.
According to this result, RA prevalence was the lowest in individuals with a dietary magnesium intake between 181 and 446 mg daily.
While this study is based on dietary intake, we suspect the same range applies when taking supplements. Moreover, this range falls within the recommended dietary allowance per day.
That said, many factors may influence your dosage. For example, individuals with severe magnesium deficiency may need to receive the mineral via an IV and then be required to take supplements to build up their levels.
Suffice it to say each case is different. However, the above dosage is generally applicable if you’re just slightly deficient or want to maintain your levels.
What is the recommended dietary allowance?
The recommended daily dietary allowance (RDA) for those aged 19 and above is between 400 and 420 mg for men and 310 and 320 mg for women. For those below 19 years, the breakdown of the recommended RDA is:
- 1-3 years: 80 mg/day
- 4-8 years: 130 mg/day
- 9-13 years: 240 mg/day
- 14-18 years (males): 410 mg/day
- 14-18 years (females): 360 mg/day
Pregnant women also have their recommended dosage, which is 350-360 mg daily. Lactating mothers require about 310-320 mg daily. Note that the above RDA figures above are from dietary intake. The tolerable upper limit for magnesium supplementation is 350 milligrams.
The upper limit refers to the maximum dosage of the supplement recommended daily. Above this limit, you may begin to experience serious side effects.
The magnesium supplement by WhyNotNatural contains 300 mg of magnesium per serving. It contains no fillers and has been third-party tested.
What are the benefits of magnesium for bone health?
It’s easy to see why magnesium is important for bone health when 60% of the total magnesium in our body is stored in the bones. Magnesium is, however, a multifunctional mineral.
Apart from the bone health benefits below, magnesium also does the following:
Regulates calcium levels
Magnesium is essential to bone and joint health because it helps regulate how much calcium the body absorbs. Normal levels of calcium in the bloodstream are healthy for your bones.
However, excess calcium can lead to calcification, where surplus calcium is deposited anywhere. In this case, the calcium may be deposited in the joints. Calcium is readily present in the synovial fluid, which acts like a lubricating oil for the joints.
Calcification occurring between the joints poses significant risks. One is the increased friction between the joints, which may damage the cartilage. If the cartilage is damaged, the bones rub against one another, causing significant pain.
Other symptoms include stiffness, swelling, and tenderness around the joint. At least, over 60% of osteoarthritis surgeries reveal calcium-containing crystals in the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammation-based and autoimmune disease. Magnesium has anti-inflammatory properties.
Individuals with RA experience inflammation around the affected joints (typically knees, wrists, and hands), which, in turn, damages surrounding tissues over time.
A systematic meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials showed that magnesium supplementation reduced known human inflammatory markers like serum C reactive protein (CRP).
Another study titled “Relationship between dietary magnesium intake and rheumatoid arthritis in US women: a cross-sectional study” found that women with optimal daily magnesium intake were significantly less likely to get RA versus those with low magnesium intake.
Strengthens the bones
We’ve already mentioned how magnesium is crucial for strong bones, but we didn’t say how bone strength can impact joint health.
Just like a house needs a strong foundation, you equally need strong bones. Bones with adequate density and strength can withstand the rigor and twists of your movements. You’re less likely to experience joint pains with stronger bones and regular physical activity.
According to the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health, adequate dietary magnesium intake “reduces the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.”
Per research from the Osteoarthritis Initiative, “Women meeting the recommended Mg intake were at a 27 % decreased risk for future fractures.”
While osteoporosis doesn’t directly cause joint pain, it may indirectly result in one. For example, suffering a compression fracture in your spine may cause inflammation in your spinal joints.
Aids osteoblasts and osteoclasts processes
The human bones don't remain stagnant, despite how it may seem to the naked eye. They grow, need reshaping, and change throughout your lifetime.
Osteoblasts and osteoclasts are the cells in the body that carry out these processes. Together, they ensure weak and damaged bone cells and tissues are replaced with healthy ones.
Think of osteoclasts as the demolition crew that tears down an old apartment building and osteoblasts as the construction crew that puts up the new structure.
Magnesium is essential for the activities of these two processes because they depend on vitamin D3 for activation and differentiation, and magnesium level determines how well vitamin D is absorbed in the guts.
Magnesium deficiency levels
We’ve mentioned some of the vital functions of magnesium in the body, and this section is a “word and opposite” of that section. Before detailing some of these symptoms, it’s important to share what magnesium deficiency is and how difficult it is to gauge.
Adequate magnesium level in the body is between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles (mmol)/L. Individuals with levels less than 0.75 mmol/L are diagnosed with magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesemia. Your doctor will order a blood test if they suspect you have low magnesium levels.
That said, they may also order additional tests like calcium blood test, urine magnesium test, or other tests to confirm your exact levels. One of the reasons they do this is because your serum blood levels may not necessarily provide a clear picture of your magnesium levels.
The bulk of your body’s magnesium is stored in your bones and other soft tissues. Consequently, measuring blood levels alone may not reflect your precise levels.
What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?
Some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
Muscle spasms or tremors
According to this handbook on magnesium deficiency, twitchy facial muscles are one of the signs doctors should look for when diagnosing magnesium deficiency.
The hypothesis is that more calcium floods the system without proper magnesium levels. The excess calcium then over-excites the nerve cells, which is what causes the spasms or twitches.
All muscle spasms are because of magnesium deficiency, so speak to a medical professional if you’re experiencing frequent twitching.
Mental health issues
Separate studies suggest that low levels of magnesium may lead to mental health-related issues.
For example, this meta-analysis concluded that their research shows a potential correlation between hypomagnesemia and depression, although the author cautioned for further studies.
Another study showed strong associations between low magnesium levels and stress.
Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by a high chance of fractures due to weak bones.
Research shows that people with this condition “consume lower quantities of magnesium than recommended.”
Other risk factors of osteoporosis include age, lack of physical activity, and poor diet.
Fatigue and muscle weakness
We stated earlier that one of the jobs of magnesium is maintaining nerve function. Poor levels of the minerals in the body inhibit nerve signaling or communication.
Hypomagnesemia also impacts the level of potassium in the muscle cells. Together, this results in muscle weakness and physical and mental exhaustion.
To learn more about the relationship between magnesium and fatigue, read: Can Magnesium Cause Fatigue? Debunking Myths & Facts.
High blood pressure
Studies in animals indicate that low levels of magnesium can lead to high blood pressure.
Recently, the Food and Drugs Administration announced that companies may now make a claim associating magnesium intake with a lowered risk of blood pressure.
Per this study, “magnesium intake of 500 mg/d to 1000 mg/d may reduce blood pressure (BP) as much as 5.6/2.8 mm Hg.”
According to this study, over 1 in 2 persons with asthma had hypomagnesemia. Moreover, they also found that the severity of the asthma had a negative association with magnesium levels.
Magnesium’s properties as an anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator also make it a potential option as therapy for severe acute asthma.
Abnormal heart rhythm
Your body needs magnesium to maintain a healthy, regular heartbeat. An irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia occurs when the bodily program that tells your heart to beat malfunctions.
Remember, magnesium is essential for nerve signaling, and lower levels of the minerals may affect communications within your body. One of the "victims" of the disruption is the heart. Consequently, your heart may beat faster or slower than normal.
Groups at risk of magnesium deficiency
Some people are more at risk of magnesium deficiency than others. Some of these groups include:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases
- People with type 2 diabetes
- People with alcohol dependence
- Older adults
It is prudent to schedule regular tests to monitor your magnesium levels if you’re older or have any of the above diseases. Also, pay attention to the symptoms highlighted above.
What are the side effects of too much magnesium?
There’s hardly any effect of consuming too much magnesium from dietary intake. This is because excess magnesium from dietary sources is filtered out by the kidney and passed out with urine. However, for excessive intake of magnesium supplements, symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, low blood pressure, and arrhythmia.
You may have observed that the tolerable upper limit is lower than the RDA. The reason is that the body treats the magnesium it generates differently from the one that comes from supplements. It readily purges excess dietary magnesium intake via the kidney.
Takeaway: Take bone and joint health seriously with more magnesium
In this article, we were able to establish how critical magnesium is to bone and joint health. We showed how magnesium’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help soothe joint pain.
In particular, magnesium promotes a healthy cartilage. Wear and tear to the cartilage is one of the leading causes of joint pain.
The best forms of magnesium supplements available to help maintain adequate levels of the mineral are the orotate, taurate, glycinate, and malate forms because they are readily absorbed in the body.
Overall, through various research studies, we know that increasing your magnesium levels improves joint health and reduces joint pain.
Grab WhyNotNatural’s 4-in-1 Magnesium Complex Supplement packed with the best forms of magnesium—orotate, taurate, glycinate, and malate.
Together, they provide a powerful combination that improves joint health and also gives you quality sleep, reduces fatigue, maintains heart rhythm, and much more.