- The “rapid magnesium IV push” can relieve nearly any acute pain caused by muscle spasm.
- Angina, migraine, asthmatic wheezing, Reynaud’s syndrome, menstrual cramping, food “sticking in the esophagus,” back muscle spasm, “stuck” kidney stone, intestinal spasm—all can be relieved.
- Why does the “rapid IV push” work when other means of using magnesium fail?
- Why should you know about this?
Vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and other nutrients and natural substances are given intravenously (IV) for many reasons: to make up for poor nutrient digestion or absorption; to more rapidly eliminate infections; to detoxify from food poisoning; as a major assist to cancer therapy; and much, much more. All of these IV infusions are “dripped in” from IV bottles or bags which usually contain between seven and thirteen ounces of fluid and usually take between 30 to 90 minutes to complete.
But there is one very small—¾ ounce—IV infusion that works much better if it’s “pushed in” as rapidly as possible! Its very many uses are applied frequently in the Tahoma Clinic. There are some other unique aspects to this “IV push” too. For example, those receiving this IV are encouraged to push it in themselves (under supervision of an experienced physician or IV technician, of course), and yes, as rapidly as they can! And the results are most often felt right away.
What is this IV? What can it do? Why the emphasis on “rapid push”? And why might you want to read about it at all, since you can take magnesium at home as a supplement, and your physician can tell you about it and give you this IV if it’s really needed?
An answer for this last question first: if we’re going to be as healthy as we can for as long as we can, we need to be aware of as many safe, natural therapies as possible—even if we can’t do them ourselves—just in case they’re ever needed!
Of course the rapid IV magnesium push contains magnesium (combined with sulfate), which is responsible for most of the results, along with vitamin B6 (which helps optimize magnesium action), and a very weak salt water (saline) solution. Even though there are three ingredients, this IV is usually called “the rapid IV magnesium push.” Administered rapidly, what this magnesium-containing IV push can do is very impressive! Let’s start with:
Translated into English it means “heart pain.” It’s very frequently termed just “angina.” Most angina “attacks” result from muscle spasm (“constriction”) of the coronary arteries. Magnesium and vitamin B6 given through rapid IV frequently relieves acute angina; the initial IV sometimes needs immediate repetition to complete the angina relief.
A series of these IVs—given daily if necessary—often eliminate angina completely, and at worst significantly lessen the frequency and severity of attacks. An example: A few years ago, a woman from Eastern Washington (on the other side of the mountains from where we’re located in the Western—and much more politically correct—side of Washington State) called us at Tahoma Clinic reporting that she’d been diagnosed with angina pectoris and told she “didn’t need surgery yet.” She’d been told that “in the meantime” she should use nitroglycerin tablets when she had chest pain. Her call was to ask if there was something more natural and healthier for her to use.
We told her there was (and of course, still is) but that it might take a few weeks for full effect. She could stay in our area for that time, or perhaps find a physician locally who would continue the treatment if she needed to return home sooner. She said she’d be staying with her son (whose home was in the Seattle area) for “as long as it takes.”
She was given the rapid IV magnesium push every day (Monday–Friday) the first week, then three times weekly for the next two weeks. During the first two weeks the severity of the “angina attacks” steadily declined; she had no more of them during the third week, so she left for home with a page of instructions that her local physician agreed to use—if necessary—if the attacks returned.
Months later, her husband had his own appointment at Tahoma Clinic. At that time she told us she’d continued taking the magnesium supplement that been advised when she left after the IV series, and she’d had no further angina “attacks.”
Why the rapid IV magnesium pushes were needed initially but could later be replaced by an oral supplement is explained towards the end of this article. Before that, we’ll review some of the outstanding results in treating angina and preventing deaths from cardiovascular disease reported in medical journals.
IV magnesium treatment of angina and cardiovascular disease was first reported by a South African physician[i],[ii] in 1956 and 1958, and an Australian physician in 1959! From the 1958 report:
In patients with coronary heart disease and angina, an appreciable number respond to parenteral [injected] administration of magnesium sulphate, sometimes in a dramatic and almost unbelievable manner, and this after all conventional and accepted methods of therapy had failed and sufferers had lost hope of ever obtaining relief. The magnesium, injected intravenously or intramuscularly, did more than relieve angina! The report continues:
64 patients with documented myocardial infarction or acute coronary insufficiency were also treated with magnesium injections. Of these, only 1 died within 4–6 weeks of the attack (1.6% mortality), while the average mortality reported by others for patients receiving conventional therapy was 19-50%. In acute cases, early administration of parenteral [IV] magnesium is important.
The 1959 report[iii] was about individuals with angina and/or atherosclerosis. In addition to relieving angina, the most dramatic effect of the magnesium injections was on cardiovascular mortality:
More than 100 patients with coronary heart disease…of whom at least ⅓ had suffered an acute myocardial infarction, were treated with intramuscular magnesium sulfate (500-1000 mg every 5 days for 12 injections). Only one death occurred (1% mortality rate).
These results were compared to those of the previous year: of 196 hospitalized patients treated with anticoagulants but no magnesium sulfate, there were 60 deaths (about a 30% mortality rate). The effects of magnesium therapy did not appear to be permanent; a maintenance dose of 1 g every 2 weeks for 6 months appeared to be necessary. Oral magnesium sulfate appeared to be ineffective.
The magnesium injections given by this physician were given intramuscularly (IM), not IV; the quantities used were much greater than the rapid IV magnesium push. The results were striking: a 1% mortality rate with magnesium, a 30.6% mortality rate without it! And don’t forget the reduction in mortality in the 1958 report: 1.6% in those given injectable magnesium versus 19–50% in those “receiving conventional therapy.”
At least four other groups of researchers[iv],[v],[vi],[vii] reported very similar results from intravenous magnesium therapy in 1985, 1986, 1990, and 1992. All four reported very significant decrease in cardiovascular mortality in those receiving magnesium injections as compared with those not receiving them. Two of these reports showed another beneficial effect of intravenous magnesium: a very significant decline in heartbeat irregularities (“cardiac arrhythmia”) and deaths from cardiac arrhythmia.
Whatever happened to intravenous (or intramuscular) injections of magnesium for angina, heart attack, or as treatment to prevent arrhythmia? First, as my colleague Alan R. Gaby, MD, has pointed out, some subsequent researchers used excessive amounts of magnesium; adverse effects occurred. Those adverse effects are completely preventable: Use less magnesium! The smaller amounts worked very well! Second (and likely most important): magnesium is neither patentable nor “approved” by los federales. Can’t charge $1,000 an injection for it!
Once again, I’ve digressed. Back to what’s been done at Tahoma Clinic with the rapid IV magnesium push.
In the large majority of those suffering from migraine, the rapid IV magnesium push completely relieves an acute migraine. A series of these IVs (given two to three times weekly for three to four weeks) will almost always significantly lessen the frequency and severity of migraines, although allergy elimination and desensitization and blood sugar control are often necessary for complete migraine elimination.
The rapid IV magnesium push given during an acute attack of asthma almost always eliminates it, although immediate repetition is sometimes needed. Despite this success in eliminating acute attacks, a series of these IVs usually only lessens the frequency and severity of asthma, only occasionally eliminating asthma entirely. Allergy elimination and desensitization, diet change, and specific supplementation are all usually necessary for major lessening or elimination of childhood or adult asthma.
Relief of acute asthma with intravenous magnesium has been the subject of considerable recently reported research, nearly all favorable. (Apparently, overdoses of magnesium have not been used in this research, as was the case with intravenous magnesium for angina and other cardiovascular problems done in the 1990s.)
Physicians in Paraguay[viii] reported using intravenous magnesium sulfate in children ages six to sixteen whose asthma failed to improve after two hours of “standard therapy.” Their conclusion:
Early utilization of…prolonged magnesium sulfate infusion…for non-infectious mediated asthma, expedites discharges from the emergency department with significant reduction in healthcare cost.
The Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews conducts reviews of accumulated health care research independently of patent medicine company or potentially forcible (“government”) money or interference. The review[ix] was based on fourteen studies meeting Cochrane’s criteria. From their conclusions:
This review provides evidence that a single infusion of 1.2 grams or 2 grams IV magnesium sulfate over 15 to 30 minutes reduces hospital admissions and improves lung function in adults with acute asthma who have not responded sufficiently to oxygen, nebulised short-acting beta2-agonists, and IV corticosteroids.
The rapid IV magnesium push will lessen or eliminate acute blood vessel spasm in the hands or feet, restoring more normal circulation; an IV series will lessen the frequency and severity of recurrence. Unlike some of the other spasm problems discussed, Reynaud’s syndrome is more frequently lessened than eliminated by this procedure. Allergy and sensitivity identification, elimination and desensitization is additionally helpful in reducing Reynaud’s syndrome, as are inositol hexaniacinate, time-release niacin, L-citrulline, L-arginine, and vitamin E.
The rapid IV magnesium push IV can lessen or eliminate severe, acute menstrual cramping. A series of these IVs frequently lessens the severity of the cramping each month. Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil, one tablespoonful daily as well as oral magnesium (which will not relieve the acute episodes of menstrual cramps) for several months are usually necessary to completely eliminate these cramps. (Menstrual cramps are not a result of a Motrin, Advil, or Midol deficiency!)
Esophageal spasm (recurrent)
This is a problem seen frequently at Tahoma Clinic. The rapid IV magnesium push given twice weekly for three weeks will almost always eliminate this problem. After that, magnesium can be taken orally to prevent recurrence, even in individuals who had tried oral magnesium with no relief. (See also below for details about why this happens.)
Back muscle spasms
The rapid IV magnesium push usually relieves acute back muscle spasm; an IV series (twice weekly for three to four weeks) frequently eliminates the problem. As always, look for causes: chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments are often necessary for complete elimination of back muscle spasms; occasionally food allergy and sensitivity is involved, too.
Intestinal spasms (recurrent)
The rapid IV magnesium push almost always eliminates acute intestinal spasm; an IV series lessens the frequency and severity of the problem. General diet improvement, digestive function improvement, and allergy and sensitivity identification, elimination and desensitization are variably and usually necessary for complete relief.
“Kidney stone pain” or “Ureteral colic”
In English this means cramping of the muscular tube from one kidney to the bladder, and it is very often caused by attempted but incomplete passage of a kidney stone, which remains “stuck in place” by spasms of the ureter. Since the rapid IV magnesium push relaxes ureteral muscle spasms, most often the stone can then be “passed” and pain stopped.
Although we’re not urological specialists, many of those who’ve visited Tahoma Clinic have learned about this treatment, resulting in nearly-always-successful passage of many “stuck” kidney stones over the years we’ve been using the rapid IV magnesium push. Two consecutive “pushes” are sometimes required before the pain is relieved and the stone passes.
(For other reasons, these exact same nutrients—magnesium and vitamin B—taken in small daily oral doses will almost always prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation.)
“Intussusception’’ is a technical term for an intestine which has “telescoped” in on itself, causing very intense pain. The usual treatment is hospitalization and surgery immediately, which in the absence of any other treatment is the thing to do! But a very brave woman who’d been coming to Tahoma Clinic for other things for a few years showed us that hospitalization and surgery isn’t necessarily the only option.
Her husband had taken her to a hospital emergency room where she was told that her intense abdominal pain was due to an intussusception and that surgery should be done right away. She refused, and told her husband to drive to Tahoma Clinic “as fast as the law allows.” I urged her to return to the emergency room; she refused and asked me to try “that shot I heard about at Tahoma that relieves stuck kidney stone pain.” Three consecutive rapid IV magnesium pushes relieved the intense spasm (and apparently the intussusception) completely.
How Much Magnesium and Vitamin B6?
The IV usually used by Tahoma Clinic physicians contains magnesium sulfate 3000 milligrams (6ccs), vitamin B6 300 milligrams (3ccs), mixed with “½ normal saline” (technically, 0.45% saline; 11 ccs) in a 20cc syringe. As noted above, for some conditions one, two, or even three consecutive “pushes” are needed to relieve the problem.
Other conditions require a series of IVs ranging from six to ten or twelve repetitions, occasionally more, given once or twice weekly depending on clinical response and according to the clinical judgement of the responsible physician. To best relax spasms of all sorts, each IV should be given as rapidly as tolerable (explanation for that soon!).
IV magnesium relaxes and dilates the blood vessels, causing an overwhelming sensation of heat (which passes) if given too fast. After the first experience of all that heat, individuals are advised why the “rapid push” is better, but to avoid repeated over-heating and a possibly greater chance of fainting, they’re asked to push the material in the syringe through the IV tubing themselves “as fast as they can stand that heat,” as they can better judge when to “back off.”
Very occasionally an individual will faint during the rapid IV magnesium push, so the IV is usually given while the individual is lying down or reclining in a chair. Fortunately, recovery is always rapid.
Why Not Oral Magnesium and Vitamin B6?
First, oral magnesium and vitamin B6 won’t work fast enough in any acute situation. In order to relax an acutely spastic muscle of any sort, it must be flooded with magnesium. Only a rapidly given IV will do this job. Over time, oral doses of magnesium and vitamin B6 will help to lessen the frequency and severity of many of the conditions listed above, but oral supplementation takes considerably longer than a relatively brief series of intravenous injections and often isn’t as effective.
A second reason oral magnesium supplementation frequently isn’t as effective as intravenous administration has to do with some of the unique characteristics of intestinal magnesium absorption. As nearly everyone knows, large oral doses of magnesium (as in “milk of magnesia”) are almost always capable of “clearing the bowels,” and if continued, will cause diarrhea for as long as they’re taken. But it isn’t generally known that there are oral doses of magnesium not quite large enough to cause diarrhea, but definitely large enough to cause magnesium and many other nutrients to be poorly absorbed.
Dr. Stephen Davies documented several cases of what he termed “magnesium-induced magnesium deficiency.” In these individuals, low levels of magnesium resulted from taking enough magnesium orally to cause overly rapid passage of the magnesium through the bowels, but not overt diarrhea. Dr. Davies termed this condition “gastro-intestinal hurry.” In this circumstance, plenty of magnesium is moving through the intestines, but not enough can be absorbed.
I’ve worked with several individuals whose “across the board” (including magnesium) mineral deficiencies were traced back to magnesium—for them—supplementation. One woman found she didn’t need to come in for rapid IV magnesium pushes for acute pain from time to time any more when she cut back her oral magnesium supplement from 1000 milligrams daily to 450 milligrams daily.
Because of this potential for causing “gastrointestinal hurry” with consequent magnesium and other nutrient malabsorption, I usually recommend that oral magnesium supplementation be kept at 500 milligrams daily, or less, unless you’re working with a physician skilled and knowledgeable in nutritional medicine.
Finally, the most technical reason of all: For optimal body functions of all sorts, magnesium is overwhelmingly accumulated inside of cells. To keep that “inside to outside” distribution so high inside of cells, each cell membrane contains a mechanism called “the magnesium pump” which keeps moving magnesium from the outside to the inside of each cell.
If an individual has not been “eating his or her green veggies” (best dietary sources of magnesium) for long enough, the amount of magnesium outside the cells drops to a critically low level. Some of the inside-the-cell magnesium must be released to outside the cells. If this goes on for awhile, and the amount of magnesium inside the cell drops too low, the cell membrane loses its ability to pump the magnesium to the inside of the cell, so even if that person starts eating green veggies again, or takes sufficient oral (or rubbed-into-the-skin) magnesium, the magnesium still can’t get back into the cells.
What happens then? Remember, magnesium inside muscle cells helps them to relax. Without enough magnesium inside, they can’t do this well—the result is cramps and spasms. Another result is persistently low energy, as magnesium is necessary for the production of ATP (the “energy molecule”) by the mitochondria present inside every cell in our bodies.
At our Nutritional Therapy in Medical Practice seminars, Dr. Gaby told us about animal research that solved this problem. Animals were deliberately fed a magnesium deficient diet until their intracellular magnesium dropped so low that the “magnesium pump” (remember, not a real “pump,” just a name) stopped working.
After that, no amount of oral magnesium would “turn the magnesium pump on again,” so the intracellular magnesium stayed low. But when the researchers gave rapid IV pushes of magnesium to these animals, it literally forced its way into the cells (without doing any damage to them). After enough rapid IV magnesium pushes, the magnesium level inside each cell (compared to that outside each cell) went back to the optimal proportions. Somehow, that switched on the “magnesium pump” again. No more IVs were needed, and oral magnesium would work again!
And that’s the reason for the rapid IV magnesium push. When anyone is suffering from intense cramping, the rapid IV magnesium push will almost always relieve the spasm and pain safely, regardless of whether there’s a “magnesium pump problem” or not. Slowly administered intravenous (IV) magnesium, intramuscular (IM) magnesium, and oral magnesium cannot “cover all bases” to relieve painful spasm nearly as well.
The rapid IV magnesium push relieves acute muscle spasm of all sorts. A series of these injections will usually lessen and often completely eliminate recurrent spasms. While oral supplementation of these nutrients can also be helpful, it cannot do as well as rapid intravenous administration.
However, the rapid IV magnesium push should rarely be relied upon as the entire treatment for any of the conditions noted above. As muscle spasms can have many causes, those causes should be identified and eliminated whenever possible, even while relying on intravenous magnesium for more immediate symptom relief.
Other articles in this issue:
- For Erectile Disfunction, See Your Dentist?
- Has the Cause of Psoriasis Been Found?
- Is “Red Meat” Really Bad for You?
[i] Malkiel-Shapiro B, et al. “Parenteral magnesium sulfate therapy in coronary heart disease.” Med Proc. 1956
[ii] Malkiel-Shapiro B. “Further observations on parenteral magnesium sulfate therapy in coronary heart disease: a clinical appraisal.” S Afr Med J. 1958
[iii] Parsons RS, et al. “The treatment of coronary artery disease with parenteral magnesium sulfate.” Med Proc. 1959
[iv] Smith L, et al. “Magnesium sulphate infusion after acute myocardial infarction: effects on arrhythmias and mortality.” Clin Sci. 1985
[v] Rasmussen HS, et al. “Intravenous magnesium in acute myocardial infarction.” Lancet 1986
[vi] Shechter M, et al. “Beneficial effect of magnesium sulfate in acute myocardial infarction.” Am J Cardiol. 1990
[vii] Woods KL, et al. “Intravenous magnesium sulphate in suspected acute myocardial infarction: results of the second Leicester Intravenous Magnesium Intervention Trial (LIMIT-2).” Lancet 1992
[viii] Irazuzta JE, et al. “High-dose magnesium sulfate infusion for severe asthma in the emergency department: efficacy study.” Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2016
[ix] Kew KM, Kirtchuk L, Michell CI. “Intravenous magnesium sulfate for treating adults with acute asthma in the emergency department.” Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014