Why Do You Get It
Brain freeze, also called an ice-cream headache, is known in medical terms as a cold-stimulus headache, Goldberg said. Its a common phenomenon that affects people of all ages, but doctors arent quite sure why it happens.
For this type of headache, the main trigger is any kind of exposure to a significantly cold temperature, Goldberg said. Its not only caused by an internal trigger, like eating frozen treats too quickly it can also be caused by an external trigger, such as going outside without a hat on a frigid day or diving into a very cold lake.
Brain freeze may start when a very cold substance food or air, for example hits the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat and stimulates blood vessels and nerves in these temperature-sensitive areas.
A small study presented in 2012 found that the sudden increase in blood flow and resulting increase in size of the anterior cerebral artery, a blood vessel located in the middle of the brain behind the eyes, may be responsible for brain freeze pain. The study found that when patients brain freeze ended, the artery constricted and reduced blood flow, which is likely what caused the pain to disappear. The researchers said they suspect that an increase in pressure within the skull, brought on by increased blood flow to the head, is what causes the pain.
Regina Krel, M.D. contributes to topics such as Neurology.
Can Brain Freeze Stop A Migraine
There is nothing like a big slushy or a double-scoop ice-cream cone on a hot summer day. But then it hits you: an excruciating headache that feels like you are being stabbed in your temples and right between the eyes you just got brain freeze.
Brain freeze, also called ice-cream headache, occurs when something very cold comes in contact with your upper palate too fast. While painful and extremely unpleasant, its not a serious condition, and it goes away on its own within a few minutes or even seconds.
If youve ever had brain freeze before, you probably learned to avoid it at all costs. Eating and drinking cold substances slowly can help reduce your chances of getting it, and drinking some warm water can help you recover faster.
But despite their bad reputation, there may be some upsides to these dreadful headaches. Keep reading to find out how brain freeze may actually be beneficial for treating more severe headaches, and migraines.
Understanding brain freeze
Brain freeze is a common phenomenon that can affect anybody that eats or drinks very cold substances too fast, though people may also get brain freeze from inhaling cold air quickly or after diving into freezing water. Brain freeze is known to start when the cold substance hits the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat and stimulates blood vessels and nerves in these temperature-sensitive areas.
Brain freeze and migraines
How Brain Freeze Happens
Brain freeze is just that a headache brought about by the cold. The low temperature is picked up by SPG nerves and triggers a reaction.
Brain freeze happens more regularly to those prone to migraines and headaches. These factors are dictated by all manner of reasons. Genetics play a part. Around 30-40 per cent of people are believed to be more prone to headaches.
Brain freeze is a cold-induced pain. Its scientifically known as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.
The SPG nerves affected are a group of nerve cells connected to the trigeminal nerve, which is central to headaches, according to .
The cluster of nerves can be found behind your nose and is responsible for transmitting information about sensations such as pain. So you want to keep them happy.
Nasal congestion and crying are also triggered by these nerves. Which explains watery eyes with brain freeze.
When you have something cold, it touches the back of your throat and the roof of your mouth, causing tiny blood vessels in the region to suddenly constrict and then to dilate equally rapidly a little later, explains.
The discomfort sensed by pain receptors in the area causes the message of pain to be sent via the bundle of nerves to the trigeminal nerve and on to the brain.
The pain sensation due to the cold stimulus is interpreted as being from the head instead of the mouth by your brain something known as referred pain. The result is a brain freeze or an ice-cream headache.
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When To Seek Help
When to Seek HelpWhen the fight or flight or freeze or fawn response becomes overly frequent, really intense, and activates at the most inappropriate times, this can imply that you are suffering from a range of clinical conditions that include most anxiety disorders.
Again, while the fight or flight or freeze or fawn response has a clear purpose, it should not be activated whenever you do not actually have to defend your life.
If you feel this could be you, a valuable part of treatment for this kind of anxiety is an improved understanding of the fight or flight or freeze or fawn response’s function, purpose, and process .
For example, patients with post-traumatic stress disorder may confuse the heightened physiological arousal as an indicator of a real threat. Understanding more about the fight or flight or freeze or fawn response can help them feel safer by implementing relaxation and grounding techniques.
If you are at a point in your life where stress is heavily impacting the quality of everyday living, contact your doctor. Medication, therapy, and stress management strategies can help you reach a more stable state of being.
Here is a specific list of symptoms you should seek help if you experience any of the following:
- Constantly feeling “on edge.”
- Persistent fear, nervousness, or worry.
- Stress interferes with daily pursuits.
- Intense fear of non-threatening situations.
A mental health consultant can aid in rooting the underlying causes of these overwhelming feelings.
The Spg And Headaches
The SPG is a very important bundle of nerves, and although its the source of brain freeze, this group of nerves is also the cause of other types of headaches.
This is the same ganglion that is responsible for migraine headaches and cluster headaches, Vertrees said. There has been a lot of research done on this bundle of nerves, but mostly for trying to prevent these more serious and longer-lasting headaches. We now have two different kinds of devices for the SPG. One device blocks the nerve with a numbing agent, and the other that stimulates it electronically with the goal of eliminating or preventing migraine or cluster headaches from occurring.
Obviously, that approach is a bit extreme for treating a brain freeze, but these links between the different types of headaches can help people who suffer from migraines. Many people will try to give themselves a brain freeze to try to break a migraine headache, Vertrees said. It may not work for everyone or work every time, but giving yourself a brain freeze can possibly alleviate a migraine.
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How To Recognize Fight Flight Freeze And Fawn
The stress response occurs when the demands of the environment are greater than our perceived ability to cope with them.
The level of stress depends on the individualÃ¢â¬â¢s perception of the event and their perception of their ability to cope with the event.e.g. taking an exam might not be perceived as a stressor by someone who has had good results at their test but might be seen as a stressor by another individual who has failed all their tests .
What Is Mental Stroke
Overview. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. A stroke is a medical emergency, and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can reduce brain damage and other complications.
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How To Prevent Brain Freeze
Scientific studies support what you probably already know, that you can largely avoid brain freeze by eating frozen food s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y.
Keeping frozen food towards the front of your mouth and away from the cold-sensitive roof of your mouth can help as well.
If you are drinking super-cold drinks like slushies or milkshakes, use a spoon instead of a straw.
Drinking through a straw channels the cold liquid directly to the nerve that triggers pain.
This helps to keep the ice cream from hitting the nerve bundle on your palate.
And dont eat ice cream thats frozen rock-hard.
Let it warm up a bit.
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Prevent Brain Freeze Next Time You Eat Or Drink
Of course, the easiest way to keep brain freeze from striking is to avoid consuming ice-cold food and beverages, says Dr. MacGregor. But in the summer, or on a sunny warm vacation, that’s not all that realisticor fun.
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So prevent brain freeze from happening in the first place by eating your ice cream very slowly, especially during that initial bite or lick, so the nerves in your palate aren’t overwhelmed with the cold sensation. Or try eating cold food toward the front of your mouth, which helps you avoid the sensitive nerve endings toward the back that trigger brain freeze, suggests Dr. Natbony.
If none of these solutions help, Dr. Natbony also advises that you heat your cold food to a warmer temperature before putting it in your mouth. So if you can handle a soupy, warm pint of rocky road, stick your bowl in the microwave for a couple of seconds before devouring it.
Brain Freeze And Migraine
While ice cream headaches can hit anyone who enjoys an icy-cold treat, you might be more likely to have them or they might be worse if you tend to get migraines. But brain freeze is generally thought to be harmless, so that triple-scoop cone wonât trigger a migraine or any other type of serious headache.
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The Scoop On Ice Cream Headache
What causes ice cream headaches? Nothing serious, says Wojtek Mydlarz, assistant professor of otolaryngologyhead and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins. He explains:
There are several theories about what makes this happen. The one that probably makes the most sense is that when you eat or drink a large quantity of very cold food or liquid, you drop the temperature of the palate pretty substantially. The blood vessels automatically constrictits a survival reflex to maintain your bodys core temperature.
After the squeeze, Mydlarz says, the blood vessels open up quickly. This rebound dilation sends a pain signal to the brain through a nerve called the trigeminal nerve, whose upper branch extends into the midface and forehead, he says.
Mydlarz says ice cream headache is an example of referred pain when changes happening in one part of the body signal pain in another. In this case, the tiny muscles around the blood vessels in the palate are tightening and relaxing suddenly, but the sensation is experienced higher up in the head
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Does Brain Freeze Happen To Everyone
Not necessarily – yep, there are brain freeze virgins out there!
Everyone has a trigeminal nerve, but not everyone experiences brain freeze. Some peoples trigeminal nerve are more sensitive than others. This means less cold temperatures and shorter durations of exposure can be enough to cause brain freeze for some people, but not others.
If you find yourself being nailed by a brain freeze, youre going to want to act as fast as the brain freeze itself and remove the cold food or drink ASAP – this will stop or slow the nerves from contracting any further. Pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth or consuming something slightly warmer can help too. .
Ways That One Can Die From A Brain Freeze
In answering the question above, this was hinted at. It is actually within the realm of possibility for one to die from a brain freeze. Well, even though that is almost impossible, death can result from a brain freeze. This is in these few conditions:
- You have to consume something so cold that all the blood vessels in your mouth will freeze in an instant. This is going to stop all the blood circulation into your brain and that is going to lead to death. In such a situation, the pain will be unbearable. You will slip into a coma-like situation almost immediately. But again, we all know that the temperature of ice cream and other cold foods is not near that. What we eat is not even near strong enough to turn saliva into ice crystals not to talk of the blood vessels.
- The item you are eating has to be so cold that it can immediately shut down the nervous system. If this happens, then the cardiovascular system collapses. You die of a combination of shock and suffocation. This is because the lungs and heart are going to stop functioning. These organs and systems depend on a functional nervous system to keep working. That can be in that very unlikely situation where you swallow something so cold. Something so cold it shuts down the nervous system, this can be the result. Once again, nothing cold that humans consume can trigger this fatal reaction.
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What Causes Ice Cream Headache
Q. What exactly happens when I eat something cold and get an ice cream headache? Is it harmful in any way?
A. Ice cream headache, also known as brain freeze or cold-stimulus headache, is a headache some people get when they consume a cold food or beverage quickly. The pain is usually in the forehead or both temples, and it usually lasts less than five minutes.
The cause is debated, but most experts believe it starts when a cold substance touches the roof of the mouth or the back of the throat and causes small blood vessels in those areas to constrict and then rapidly dilate. Pain receptors near the blood vessels sense the discomfort and send the message along tiny nerve fibers to a larger nerve , which forwards it to the brain. The trigeminal nerve also carries pain signals from the face. The brain reads the cold-stimulus sensations as coming from the head rather than the mouth a phenomenon called referred pain.
Cold-stimulus pain is common, occurring in 30% to 40% of people who dont usually have headaches. The symptoms are harmless and not a sign of any underlying disease, although many experts believe theyre more common in people who get migraines. Because ice cream headaches are so short-lived, theyre hard to study, and theres no consensus on how to stop them. Most people have their own methods the most common is to curl the tongue and press the underside against the roof of the mouth. The best way to prevent the headache is to eat very cold foods slowly.
Can Dogs Get Brain Freeze
Summer is almost here and the temperature is rising. I was walking my two dogs yesterday and bought Boba and a vanilla ice cream cone on my way home. Unfortunately, I didnt eat the ice cream fast enough and it started to melt. My two pups were eyeing me the whole time because they wanted some but I was afraid they may get brain freeze from eating it.
Can dogs get brain freeze? Yes, dogs can get brain freeze! But it is not potentially life-threatening to their health. Although, it is an unpleasant experience.
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Anterior Cerebral Artery Theory
Another theory into the cause of cold-stimulus headaches is explained by increased blood flow to the brain through the anterior cerebral artery, which supplies oxygenated blood to most medial portions of the frontal lobes and superior medial parietal lobes. This increase in blood volume and resulting increase in size in this artery is thought to bring on the pain associated with a cold-stimulus headache.
When the anterior cerebral artery constricts, reining in the response to this increased blood volume, the pain disappears. The dilation, then quick constriction, of this blood vessel may be a type of self-defense for the brain.
This inflow of blood cannot be cleared as quickly as it is coming in during the cold-stimulus headache, so the blood flow could raise the pressure inside the skull and induce pain that way. As the intracranial pressure and temperature in the brain rise the blood vessel contracts, and the pressure in the brain is reduced before reaching dangerous levels.
Avoiding And Treating A Brain Freeze
There are several ways to avoid a brain freeze, but fewer ways to treat one. To avoid brain freeze, eat the cold food much more slowly so that your mouth can warm up the fooddont inhale it, Vertrees said. Keep it in the front of your mouth: the further-back stimulation is what triggers the brain freeze.
However, if you find yourself a victim to an ice cream headache, theres a trick you can do to try and warm your way out of one. If you begin feeling a brain freeze coming on, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth. The heat from your tongue will warm up the sinuses behind your nose and then warm the ganglion that caused the brain freeze.
Brain freezes are not dangerous and very self-limiting, Vertrees said. Its about slowing down and being patient and aware of the likelihood of getting a brain freeze if you eat or drink too fast.
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Also Known As An Ice Cream Headache Doctors Say The Condition Is Harmless But It Does Hurt
Who hasnt had a delicious milkshake, Popsicle or ice cream cone interrupted by the summertime curse known as a brain freeze? The pain starts on the roof of your mouth and within an instant feels like lightning bolts bouncing inside your skull. Then poof! A few seconds later, the discomfort disappears.
Just because the pain caused by a brain freeze, or ice cream headache, is fleeting doesnt mean its any less real. In fact, doctors have an official name for the unpleasant condition sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia but good luck pronouncing it .
So, whats going on inside your head during a brain freeze?
You can think of it almost like a cramp, says Wojtek Mydlarz, director of head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine. When you move too quickly, you might get a little strain or sharp pain.
Similarly, when we eat too much ice cream too fast, it surprises your body.
Youre shocking your system. Youre shocking your throat, your palate and your tongue from the cold, especially when its hot outside, says Mydlarz.
In response to the coldness, blood vessels in the roof of your mouth tighten while something known as the trigeminal nerve sends a message to your brain saying that the body needs to turn up the thermostat. The brain responds by sending warm blood to your mouth, loosening the blood vessels there.
When your body recovers from the cold exposure and tightening of blood vessels, thats when you get that very sharp headache, says Mydlarz.