UPDATE: For detailed information and practical steps to help you beat TMJ disorder naturally, take a look at TMJ No More.
Magnesium is an essential mineral that is vital for our normal bodily function, and has an especially important role in the normal maintenance of muscles and bones.
This makes it an important mineral to consider in the management of TMJ, a painful inflammatory condition of the muscles, bones and tendons around the temporomandibular joint in the jaw.
When dysfunction occurs in this joint due to factors such as arthritis, dislocation or a trauma injury, the inflammatory process produces pain, swelling and a reduction of movement in the joint, and issues in other surrounding areas as well, such as headaches, neck and head muscle pain, teeth pain and eye pain.
Although it’s not life threatening, the pain and distress caused by TMJ can be debilitating and greatly affect an individual’s quality of life.
While conventional drug treatments for TMJ such as NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and muscle relaxants can help with the symptoms, many people would prefer a drug free alternative without side effects.
The mineral magnesium can benefit symptoms of TMJ by helping to relax the muscles and nourish the bones and muscles, and can help support health and well being in a natural way.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for proper functioning for all people, with and without TMJ. It helps to maintain healthy bones and strong muscles, assists in proper functioning of the heart, and supports a healthy immune system.
Magnesium often works hand in hand with calcium, another mineral that’s well known for its important role in bone health and strength.
Magnesium and calcium work together in our muscles in a balance with each other, helping the muscles to contract and relax.
This is why magnesium supplementation is well known as a treatment for muscle cramps and spasms.
Magnesium is also an important factor in hundreds of body processes, and a human body contains on average around 25 grams of magnesium.
The body doesn’t naturally produce magnesium, so it needs an intake of magnesium from outside sources.
Deficiency of magnesium can be caused by an insufficient intake of magnesium due to a poor diet, or because of a reduced ability of the body to absorb magnesium from the digestive system.
There can be numerous symptoms of magnesium deficiency, such as muscle cramps, fatigue, sleeplessness, irritability, poor memory and hyperactivity in mild deficiency. With a worsening deficiency of magnesium, there are worsening symptoms, including delirium, heart problems and even death from heart failure; however this level of magnesium deficiency would be quite rare in someone with a normal diet.
How does Magnesium help TMJ?
Both anecdotally, and in scientific studies, supplementation with magnesium has shown to benefit TMJ through a variety of mechanisms.
Although it’s not precisely clear how magnesium exerts its benefits on TMJ, it is believed that because magnesium helps to ease muscle cramps and tension, it can assist with relaxing the tendons and muscle around the jaw, head and neck that are involved in TMJ. Magnesium works together with calcium to promote this muscle relaxing effect, so sufficient levels of both minerals are necessary.
Sufficient intake of foods sources of magnesium, or otherwise magnesium supplementation, helps to prevent deficiency, which promotes the benefit of good energy balance, better moods, strong bones and a healthy heart.
A scientific study published in 2008 by Baylor University Medical Center found that amongst sufferers of TMJ who had had reconstructive surgery and still were experiencing severe, irresolvable symptoms, 22% had blood levels of magnesium that were below the normal level, indicating that they were deficient.
Every patient in the study had at least one nutrient deficiency, with each patient having an average of 3.3 deficiencies.
The results of this study show us two important facts:
1. Sufferers of TMJ who experience pain and a reduction in function due to TMJ are at a high risk of suffering from multiple vitamin and mineral deficiencies, probably due to the fact they are less capable of eating a normal diet due to pain, and therefore settle for a poorer diet that might not provide all the essential nutrients they need.
In this case supplementation would be necessary to increase nutrition levels up to an acceptable standard.
2. In the second case, it’s also possible that there is a feedback mechanism, where the nutrient deficiencies also contribute to inflammation, tight and sore muscles, increased stress and diminished well being, which can worsen the effect of TMJ and further decrease quality of life.
In this case supplementation would also be a good idea to get the magnesium and other vitamin levels in the blood increased quickly to rapidly improve symptoms and well being.
How can I get more Magnesium?
Magnesium is found naturally in a range of foods and can also be obtained through supplements.
The recommended daily intake of magnesium that you should aim to have each day varies depending on age and gender. 400 mg a day is recommended for men from 19-30 years old, increasing to 420 mg a day recommended for men older than 30. 310 mg a day is recommended for women aged 19-30, with 320 mg a day recommended for women over 30.
Requirements of magnesium are also different in childhood and pregnancy.
Magnesium can be obtained in the diet through a wide range of animal and vegetable based foods, including nuts, beans, legumes, seeds and most green vegetables as well as whole grains and even some shellfish and spices.
The magnesium we take in through our food is absorbed in the intestines, and the ability of the body to absorb magnesium well is dependent on many factors and can vary from person to person.
It’s estimated that in the U.S. approximately 60% of people don’t consume enough magnesium to meet daily requirements.
If your dietary intake is insufficient, your body does not absorb magnesium well, or you have a more severe deficiency of magnesium, you should consider magnesium supplementation.
Anecdotal evidence from sufferers of TMJ gives very positive reports of magnesium supplementation helping to relieve the muscle tension and pain associated with TMJ.
Particularly chelated magnesium supplements have been found to help - chelation being a form of the magnesium molecule that can better survive the digestive tract and make it to the intestines where it is absorbed.
If you are found to have a magnesium deficiency in a routine blood test, or you would like to try magnesium supplements to try to relieve the pain and tension of TMJ, it’s a great idea to discuss this with your doctor or a TMJ specialist who can confirm the most effective way for you to do this.
Are there any side effects?
The use of magnesium supplements can have a few side effects in susceptible individuals, mostly causing gastric distress symptoms such as diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
These effects should diminish if the dose is decreased and then increased slowly again.
You should avoid taking magnesium supplements if you have kidney problems, or you are taking certain high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants or antibiotics.
Check with your doctor before you start any supplementation to have the best chance of safely and effectively managing your TMJ for a better pain relief and an improved quality of life.