It’s hot out and you’re sooo thirsty! You get yourself an ice, cold slushie and begin to slurp it back…then it happens: That instant intense pain in your forehead… Brain-Freeze!!
It’s also called an ice cream headache, or a cold-stimulus headache, but the actual scientific term is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Regardless of the name, if you’ve ever eaten ice cream quickly or eagerly chugged back an icy beverage, you know about that intense, unpleasant pain.
A brain-freeze is a brief cranial pain—a short-term headache. Typically, the intense headache lasts around 20 seconds—though some experience longer lapses of pain. It’s basically your body’s way of putting on the brakes and getting your attention right away, telling you to enjoy your icy beverage a little less energetically.
What Causes a Brain-Freeze?
Brain-freeze occurs when something really cold touches the roof of your mouth. When you slurp a frigid drink or eat ice cream too fast it rapidly changes the temperature in the back of your throat. This is where your internal carotoid artery (responsible for feeding blood to your brain) and your anterior cerebral artery meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and contraction of these arteries. Nerve endings that shoot into overdrive give you that sensation of PAIN, though as they stabilize the pain can disappear just as quickly.
So What Do I Do?
To help a brain-freeze stop, you can try pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth. Other than this, just try to avoid them altogether! Try not to drink icy cold beverages and drink them slower at the very least… this is the easiest way to prevent this brief, intense pain.
In any case, the next time you experience a brain-freeze, impress your friends by informing them “no worries, it’s only sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.”