Obscure Medical Terms: How Well Do You ‘speak Medicine’
Albert B. Lowenfels, MD
Image from Dreamstime
“Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia” is the complicated medical term for what most of us call an “ice cream headache” or “brain freeze.” These more easily understandable terms describe what happens when a low-temperature food, such as ice cream, makes contact with the hard palate, causing a transient but painful headache. The exact cause is unknown, but may be related to sudden constriction and then dilatation of blood vessels involving the roof of the mouth, sending painful impulses along the trigeminal nerve.
An ice cream headache generally lasts less than 5 minutes, and the simplest self-treatment is to place the warm tongue against the roof of the mouth. In one study, ice cream headaches occurred in about two thirds of 10- to 14-year-old students, and were more common than in adults.
What about prevention of ice cream headaches? The intuitive prevention measure is to eat ice cream slowly, which is less likely than rapid consumption to produce an ice cream headache.
Should I Seek Medical Attention For Brain Freeze
You dont need medical attention for a brain freeze. But if you get frequent headaches that last a while, talk to your healthcare provider.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
A brain freeze can be painful, but its not serious and goes away on its own quickly. You can prevent ice cream headaches by avoiding very cold foods, drinks and freezing air. If you get a brain freeze, try pressing your thumb or tongue against the roof of your mouth. Or drink something warm or room temperature.
Fun Facts About Brain Freeze
Here are some interesting facts that you can use to impress your friends the next time they get a brain freeze.
Instead of laughing at them.
Brain Freeze Fact #1
Its estimated that only about 30% of ice cream eaters experience them.
Brain Freeze Fact #2
The pain of a cold headache does not actually occur in your brain because your brain has no pain receptors.
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Brain Freeze Fact #3
The Slurpee was invented by the convenience store chain 7-Eleven.
While they did not coin the term brain freeze, they did get a trademark for it.
Brain Freeze Fact #4
Anecdotally, the worst food for causing brain freeze is a Slurpee or similar frozen drink.
A budding young scientist wanted to know for sure which causes the worse brain freeze, Slurpees or ice cream.
So, he made finding out his California State Science Fair project.
He found that a Slurpee-induced headache starts sooner, lasts longer, and is more intense than an ice cream-induced headache.
Brain Freeze Fact #5
A brain freeze does not freeze your brain cells.
But if they ever did freeze, they would be ruptured by ice crystals and turn to mush.
Brain Freeze Fact #6
Brain Freeze Fact #7
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An Unexpected Link Between Brain Freeze And Migraines
The sphenopalatine ganglion is a group of nerves responsible for painful migraines and cluster headaches.
These nerves are also sensitive to cold and can trigger brain freeze.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who have migraine headaches are more prone to cold-stimulus headaches.
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Researchers hope that learning more about this relationship between migraines and brain freeze might lead to a cure for migraine headaches.
Theres an interesting side note about how cold-induced headaches might help researchers find a migraine cure.
Migraines have always been difficult to study since the onset of a headache is unpredictable.
But now, researchers can replicate a short-lived migraine in study participants on demand .
I cant imagine too many people signing up for that study!
Reduced Oxygenation During Sleep
It is a syndrome known as sleep apnea. Patients who have this kind of sleep disorder have their air tubes blocked while being asleep. That makes them wake up several times through the night when the brain has less oxygen than necessary for healthy functioning.
When you have sleep apnea you are probable to suffer from brain fog during the day. Your attention could become reduced and experience memory issues as well as stress and anxiety.
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Can You Fight It
As we have mentioned, this type of a headache due to cold stimuli is temporary and not serious enough to deprive you of your daily activities. Therefore, the normal thing to do is to wait until it disappears on its own. However, if the pain is very intense and difficult to cope with, you can drink warm water. This will help mitigate the cold sensation of the palate, so the intensity and duration of pain will decrease.
You can also try to make pressurewith the tongue or with the tip of a fingeron the highest part of the palate, with the intention of heating the nerves in a function similar to that of warm water. The pain is more likely to disappear before you know it.
Obviously, the easiest way to avoid this phenomenon is to rule out the consumption of frozen foods and beverages. But, lets be honest, in the summer this option is not ideal or realistic. However, to avoid this annoying headache, you can eat ice cream very slowly, especially at the beginning. So that the nerves of the palate get used to the cold. Therefore the results will not be as abrupt and painful on the nerves.
Vasodilation Is Probably Part Of A Self
Dr. Serrador said:
The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time. Its fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm.
If dilated arteries cause a sudden rush of blood to the brain, which raises pressure and causes pain, a drug that constricts the blood vessel should reduce pressure and eliminate the pain. Also, constricting the blood vessels that supply the brain could help prevent pressure building up dangerously high.
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Brain Freeze Back Freeze And What To Do About Them
People who live in warm climates frequently experience something that has come to be known as a “brain freeze.” You’re probably familiar with it. You eat a big spoonful of ice cream, or you chug a frosty soda, and seconds later you experience excruciating pain in the front of your head.
This phenomenon is well known in medical science. There’s even a technical term for it, sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. If you nibble at your ice cream or sip your cold drink, the blood vessels in your mouth have time to heat the food or drink so that the blood vessels in your head don’t experience a quick change in temperature. But if you eat or drink cold food or drink very quickly, you rapidly change the temperature at the back of your throat, where your internal carotid artery, which supplies blood to your brain, meets your anterior cerebral artery, which is where your brain tissue starts. The cold causes your internal carotid artery to shrink. This puts pressure on the meninges, the outer coating of the brain, which results in intense pain until circulation returns to your internal carotid artery.
What can you do to prevent these painful experiences of cold in your head, face, neck, and back? Here are some simple suggestions:
Brain freeze and back freeze don’t do permanent damage, unless you are outdoors and freezing. Take time to enjoy food and drink, and pain from cold will not be a problem.
Home Remedies For Brain Fog
Some of the best remedies for brain fog listed in reputable websites are:
1 Get some good sleep
Hormones in your brain stay at the right levels when you get a good nights sleep. Remember that you cannot replace your night sleep if you choose to work during that part of the day. As an adult, you should sleep for at least seven hours per day.
2 Include some exercise in your daily schedule
Brain fog comes as a consequence of body fatigue. That is why engaging in a mild exercise could significantly improve your health, make your thyroid gland work better, and give you less stress and anxiety.
3 Take care of your diet
You are the sole responsible for your diet. Eating more healthy fats and proteins give you the amino acids needed for the right brain function. A good diet can fight against your depression, especially when you choose healthy foods.
4 Reduce stress
Adopt a lifestyle that promotes peacefulness to your relations with other people. Anxiety and stress can increase cortisol levels in your blood and worsen the cognitive fatigue symptoms and the memory loss you experience with brain fog.
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Symptoms Of Brain Freeze
The symptoms of brain freeze include a sharp and sudden onset of pain in the frontal part of the head. This can feel like a dull ache or a sharp pain.
The pain can last anywhere from a few seconds to a full minute or two. This depends on how much of the cold food or liquid youve consumed and how quickly youve consumed it.
study tried to figure out the cause by measuring the blood flow and activity in the brain while participants drank ice water.
The researchers theory was that when the brain is cooled rapidly as a result of ingesting extremely cold food or liquids, it changes the blood flow in the brain. The cold is transferred from the roof of your mouth to the nerves of the brain, and this causes some kind of reaction in the brain.
The researchers used a Doppler, which measures blood flow, to look at the blood vessels in the middle and front brain arteries in 13 adults while they drank both ice water and room-temperature water.
The participants drank ice water through a straw placed against the roof of their mouth until they felt a brain freeze. The researchers then measured the brain resistance, heart rate, and blood pressure of these participants before, during, and after the brain freeze.
They found that drinking the ice water increased the blood flow in the front brain arteries, but not the middle blood vessels. The ice water also caused increased resistance in the brain.
between incidences of brain freeze and a history of migraine.
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.
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How To Prevent And Treat Brain Freeze
It’s sudden chilling or a cycle of chilling and warming that stimulates the nerve and causes pain, so eating ice cream slowly is less likely to cause brain freeze than wolfing it down. If you are eating or drinking something cold, it also helps to keep your mouth cold rather than allow it to warm up. However, one of the quickest ways to alleviate the pain of brain freeze is to warm your palate with your tongue. Just be sure not to follow that remedy with another scoop of ice cream.
Moment Of Science: Brain Freeze
Even some animals get them, but not all humans do
As ice cream shops close around the city, many are lining up to get their last taste of summer… and maybe their last ice cream headache of the season! Lets explore the science behind getting a brain freeze.
The medical term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia… and if your brain froze just looking at that, youre not alone. This weird sensation all has to do with regulating your body temperature. When youre eating an icy treat, blood vessels in the mouth and throat contract, then open up to try and compensate for the cold. That presses in on the nerve fibers there, and causes the pain… but why do you feel it in your head more than your mouth? Its called referred pain, similar to how those suffering from a heart attack might report a sensation in their left shoulder or arm instead. The trigeminal nerve sends a memo up the chain, but the boss up top is still trying to figure out whats happening. Your brain itself cant technically feel pain — its the receptors in the outer layers called the meninges that really make you feel that deep freeze near the front of your head.
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What Is Brain Freeze
Brain freeze is a type of headache triggered by the consumption of very cold foods or drinks.
Its also called a cold headache or an ice cream headache since eating ice cream is a common trigger, but it can even be caused by drinking ice water.
Cold-stimulus headache is a recognized medical condition listed in the most recent edition of The International Classification of Headache Disorders.
Sometimes its called a trigeminal headache referring to the trigeminal nerve, the largest nerve in your brain.
Its scientific name is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia which literally means pain of the nerve located on the roof of your mouth.
” The pain of a cold headache does not actually occur in your brain because your brain has no pain receptors.
A brain freeze headache can be extremely painful, but fortunately is short-lived, usually lasting less than 10 seconds and rarely lasting more than 30 seconds.
In only 2% of cases does a brain freeze headaches last more than 5 minutes.
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Brain Freeze And Migraine Sufferers
Dr. Serrador explains that we already know that migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer brain freeze after consuming very cold food or drink, compared with people who never have migraines.
He suggests that some of what occurs during brain freeze may be similar to what causes migraines, and possibly other kinds of headaches, including those caused by traumatic brain injuries.
Serrador and team believe that local changes in brain blood flow may be causing other types of headaches. If this can be confirmed in further studies, new medications that prevent or reverse vasodilation may help treat headaches.
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Thyroid Gland Insufficiency Or Hyperactivity
The thyroid gland is important for your metabolism. It produces the T3 and T4 hormones that are responsible for the exchange of energy between cells. In case you have a thyroid gland insufficiency your hormones can also get affected.
The altered levels of the thyroid hormones can make you have a brain fog constantly. That is why it would be better to ask your doctor to prescribe you hormones to ease the brain fog symptoms.
Poor Nutrition And Dehydration
The quality of your foods determines the possibility to develop brain fog. Dehydration can also make you feel dizzy or disoriented and unable to perform thinking.
Foods that contain many saturated fats or the quality of proteins is low, can deteriorate your condition and give you mental imbalance and distress.
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How To Prevent Brain Fog
Here you can find some useful tips to prevent Brain Fog:
1 Spend less time in front of a screen
Even if your job requires you to look at a screen for many hours during the day, make sure you take some breaks every one or two hours. It could refresh your brain and take away all the cognitive failure symptoms.
2 Exercise as frequently as possible
Physical exercise can make you think less and release satisfaction hormones to your blood. The chemical imbalance in your brain will never develop again.
3 Take supplements regularly
Supplements that boost your memory and improve your brain function such as Mind Lab Pro and Onnit Alpha Brain could give your body the nutrients it needs to avoid brain fog.
4 Avoid meeting toxic people
Persons who make you lose your temper or even worsen your depression with their behavior should better keep away from your company. Prefer to hang out with real friends that can listen to your problems and entertain you.
5 Spend time in nature
Regular excursions in nature can give you more energy to cope up with busy daily life and remove the foggy curtain from your brain. Not to mention, that nature can better oxygenate your brain cells to work smoothly for another busy week.
What Does Ganglioneuralgia Mean
Most of us have heard the word ice cream headache or brain freeze medically referred to as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.In the case of this rare condition, a low-temperature food, such as ice cream, causes a transient, but extremely painful headache when it comes into contact with the hard palate.
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