Magnesium For Growing Pains


Magnesium is an important mineral which helps regulate many bodily functions. One of the bodily functions it helps to control is muscle contractions. Growing pains primarily affect the muscles within the legs, therefore it is thought that magnesium helps with reducing leg cramps caused by growing pains. 

Growing pains can frequently occur during the evening or night-time for children of any age, but they are most common for children aged 5-12 years.1 The pain can be felt as a throbbing or aching sensation in any area of the leg and will often go away on its own.

Although there is no evidence explaining the cause of growing pains, there are certain factors that may influence their development. These include low pain tolerance, joint hypermobility syndrome, and increased amounts of physical activity. Additionally, some studies have suggested that certain vitamins and minerals like magnesium can affect growing pains. 

How does magnesium affect growing pains

As previously mentioned, magnesium plays an important role within the body by regulating muscle contractions. It does this by blocking calcium binding to proteins like myosin and troponin C in muscle cells, ‘relaxing’ the muscle. If calcium does not get blocked by magnesium and binds to these proteins, it causes the muscle to contract.2 When your body does not have enough magnesium to compete with calcium, your muscles may contract too much, which may cause cramps or pain within the leg muscles. Therefore, magnesium may help to relieve growing pains by relaxing muscles.

Little research has examined the direct impact of magnesium on relieving the symptoms of growing pains in children. However, magnesium deficiency is known to cause symptoms like muscle weakness and cramps because of the muscles’ inability to relax.2 Therefore, it is important for children to have normal levels of magnesium to help reduce the risk of muscle weakness and pain. 

How much magnesium should I take for growing pains

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium can vary depending on the age of a child. The RDA values for magnesium are in micrograms (mg) and are as follows:3

  • 85mg per day for children aged 1-3 years
  • 120mg per day for children aged 4-6 years
  • 200mg per day for children aged 7-10 years
  • 280mg per day for children aged 11-14 years
  • 300mg per day for those aged 15-18 years

RDA’s are generalised recommendations and do not account for a child’s weight, activity levels, and conditions that affect the absorption of minerals. Thus, it is important to consider these other factors and see your healthcare provider if you are unsure of how much your child requires.

The RDA for magnesium is often easily attained via dietary magnesium.4 However, if you or your child are worried about not getting enough magnesium within your diet, it is important to visit a doctor who can check your magnesium levels and give advice on whether magnesium supplementation is necessary. 

Magnesium rich foods include:

  • Nuts
  • Spinach and other leafy green vegetables
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Dark chocolate (70% or higher cacao content)
  • Bananas
  • Beef
  • Seeds 

Magnesium and vitamin D

Alongside meeting the RDA for magnesium, it is crucial for your child to meet their RDA for vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency may be an underlying factor which causes growing pains in some children.5 A deficiency of cholecalciferol (aka vitamin D3, a type of vitamin D which comes from exposure to sunlight) is common for children in winter. Magnesium is readily absorbed by the body when it’s in the presence of vitamin D. Thus, having enough of both vitamin D and magnesium can create a perfect balance and enhance their beneficial effects.

Which magnesium is best for growing pains

Magnesium comes in a variety of forms like lotions, oils, epsom salts, supplements, and food. Diet and supplementation are the most evidenced to increase magnesium levels within the body. The effectiveness of oils and lotions for increasing magnesium levels is still debated.  However, the topical application of magnesium may help decrease muscle pain.6 Therefore, the best form of magnesium depends on the outcome required and the individual circumstances of the child.

Considerations for deciding on how to take magnesium may include:

  • Whether your child is a fussy eater and does not eat many magnesium-rich foods
  • If your child eats a lot of processed foods 
  • Whether there are low levels of magnesium within the body, or if magnesium levels are normal and there is only a need to decrease muscle pain

In addition to how magnesium can be taken, there are different types of magnesium. The most common type in pharmacies is called magnesium citrate. Magnesium citrate comes as a supplement for children and adults and is easily absorbed, hence it helps to increase magnesium levels in the body. 

Some other types of magnesium include: 

  • Magnesium lactate
  • Magnesium chloride
  • Magnesium taurate
  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium aspartate
  • Magnesium sulfate
  • Magnesium malate

There is no general conclusion as to the best type of magnesium for growing pains as the child’s specific circumstances need to be considered. If your child has a condition affecting their kidneys, heart, intestine, nervous system or muscles, or has an allergy to magnesium salts, it is best to see your healthcare practitioner before using any magnesium supplements or lotions. 

Side effects and other concerns

Care should be taken when taking magnesium orally because: 

  • Ingesting large amounts of magnesium may cause side effects like diarrhoea7 
  • Magnesium can interact with certain medications. For example, magnesium supplements may reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics and blood pressure-lowering medicines

Interestingly, applying magnesium topically using magnesium oil, lotion, or epsom salts may decrease the risk for unwanted side effects that ingesting magnesium has. As mentioned earlier, topical application may be beneficial for reducing muscle pains, but not for treating magnesium deficiency. 

It is important to note that low magnesium levels may cause further unwanted complications like migraines, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, and arrhythmia.5 Therefore, it is still necessary that you or your child is getting enough magnesium, whether this be via the diet or supplementation.

Other concerns for self-treating growing pains is the similarity of growing pains with other issues like restless leg syndrome and injuries. It necessary to consult your healthcare practitioner when leg pain is:9

  • Ongoing
  • Interfering with everyday activities 
  • Connected to injury
  • Occurring with other symptoms like swelling, itchiness, rash, or high temperature
  • Occuring in the morning
  • Accompanied by with extreme fatigue or loss of appetite 

These symptoms may indicate a different issue that needs to be addressed. 


Whether your child is experiencing growing pains or not, it is important that they are meeting recommended guidelines for magnesium intake. Although there has been no specific evidence for the effectiveness of magnesium to treat growing pains, it is known that magnesium helps with lots of bodily functions including the control of muscle contractions. Magnesium comes in a variety of forms, and the most appropriate type of magnesium depends on what is most applicable to your child’s characteristics and issues. Finally, the cause of growing pains still remains unknown and a lot of different factors may be involved, but growing pains are harmless and often go away on their own.


  1. Uziel Y, Hashkes PJ. Growing pains in children. Pediatric Rheumatology [Internet]. 2007 Apr 19 [cited 2023 Mar 12];5(1):5. Available from: 
  2. Magnesium [Internet]. Office of Dietary Supplements [cited 2023 Mar 12]. Available from: 
  3. Al Alawi AM, Majoni SW, Falhammar H. Magnesium and human health: perspectives and research directions. International Journal of Endocrinology [Internet]. 2018 Apr 16 [cited 2023 Mar 12];2018:e9041694. Available from: 
  4. Magnesium [Internet]. The Nutrition Source. 2019 [cited 2023 Mar 12]. Available from: 
  5. Razzaque MS. Magnesium: are we consuming enough? Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Dec [cited 2023 Mar 12];10(12):1863. Available from: 
  6. Gröber U, Werner T, Vormann J, Kisters K. Myth or reality—transdermal magnesium? Nutrients [Internet]. 2017 Aug [cited 2023 Mar 12];9(8):813. Available from: 
  7. Fine KD, Santa Ana CA, Fordtran JS. Diagnosis of magnesium-induced diarrhea. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 1991 Apr 11 [cited 2023 Mar 12];324(15):1012–7. Available from:  
  8. Gröber U. Magnesium and drugs. International Journal of Molecular Sciences [Internet]. 2019 Jan [cited 2023 Mar 12];20(9):2094. Available from: 9. Growing pains [Internet]. NHS. 2017 [cited 2023 Mar 12]. Available from: 
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Kristy Maskell

Master of Science – Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Hull
Bachelor of Science with Honours – Exercise and Health Science, University of Brighton

Kristy is a Dietetics master’s student which has allowed her to develop clinical knowledge of nutrition for a variety of populations. She is passionate about making evidence-based nutrition information accessible and loves to write this for everybody to read. Kristy looks forward to qualifying as a registered dietitian in the near future and having the opportunity to provide the best possible patient-centred care.

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