If you have ever eaten ice cream, consumed a popsicle or sipped a Slushie or Frappucino too fast, you may have experienced “brain freeze.” It’s also been called an ice-cream headache.
Doctors have given it a tongue twister name: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. When the roof of the mouth comes into contact with something very cold for more than a few seconds, a nerve reaction appears to cause rapid blood vessel constriction and then dilation. Pain radiates from the palate to the brain and it can be intense until the roof of the mouth warms up again.
Some people have told us that inducing brain freeze can stop a migraine headache.
Q. I know when my burning headaches go all day it’s because the weather has gone from too hot to too cold at the snap of my fingers. Or rain is on the way within the next day or two. But after popping pain pills all day with no relief, why does eating spoonfuls of chocolate peanut butter ice cream take the pain right away?
A. Four years ago we wrote that “we have no idea why chocolate peanut butter ice cream helps headaches, but we can’t think of a tastier treatment.”
Some people actually develop something called ice-cream headaches if they eat very cold food too fast. It means that nerves in the roof of the mouth have been overwhelmed by the cold.
Not long after that newspaper column appeared than we received this response:
Q. Holy cow! I can’t believe ice cream is a legitimate treatment for headaches.
I just had three migraines right in a row and didn’t know how I was going to take care of my 3-month-old baby all day if the cycle kept going. I ate an ice cream bar and my migraine was gone almost instantly. I figured it was coincidental but I’m glad to see from your website that I’m not nuts!
A. Ever since one reader reported migraine relief from eating chocolate peanut-butter ice cream, we have heard from many others that ice cream can help stop these horrible headaches. It is possible that the “brain freeze” from quickly eating something very cold may interrupt the migraine process.
If you would like to see our video about this process and a more up-to-date scientific explanation, here’s a video with more details:
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