AAAHH!! The dreaded brain freeze (also called an ice cream headache)…we have almost all experienced it when drinking an ice cold drink or eating ice cream way too fast.
But, did you know that the dreaded brain freeze is actually considered a short duration headache? Do you know what causes brain freeze or how to stop it?
What Is A Brain Freeze?
A brain freeze is a form of cold stimulus headache. The medical term for this type of headache is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. The brain freeze occurs when something cold touches the roof of our mouths (also called the palate). The sudden onset change in temperature of the tissue stimulates nerves to cause rapid dilation and swelling of blood vessels. There is an attempt by the body to direct blood to the area and warm it back up. The dilation of the blood vessels triggers pain receptors, which release pain-causing prostaglandins, increases sensitivity to further pain, and produces inflammation, while sending signals through the trigeminal nerve to alert the brain to the problem. The trigeminal nerve can sense facial pain, strangely the brain interprets the pain signal as coming from the forehead. When the body senses pain in a different area than the source this is called “referred pain”.
Generally, the headache appears in about 10 seconds after placement of cold in the mouth and usually lasts around 20 seconds, although some people may experience much longer instances of pain. The sensation can become intense and hit fast as nerve endings go into overdrive. Only about a third of the population ever experience brain freeze from eating or drinking something cold, though most people are susceptible to a related headache from sudden exposure to a very cold climate.
Can Brain Freeze Be Prevented?
Since the brain freeze is caused by the rapid chilling and subsequent warming by the body, there are a few ways to help prevent brain freeze. They are as follows:
-After drinking or eating something cold use your tongue to warm the top of your mouth. This can alleviate the onset of brain freeze.
-Tilting your head back for about 10-15 seconds allows blood flow to equilibrate and not rush to the area as quickly.
-Drink a liquid that has a higher temperature than whatever caused the brain freeze.
A brain freeze is not really a serious issue but it is annoying. Recent research has also shown that those who experience migraines seem to be more susceptible to brain freeze. This can possibly lead research teams to develop new medications that help prevent or treat the vasodilation that is causing the headaches. These drug therapies could lead to significant advances in many peoples lives.