It’s a sudden and intense headache that’s usually the result of eating ice cream too fast.
But what exactly is brain freeze and how does it work?
Brain freeze is also known as an ice cream headache, a cold stimulus headache, or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, which means pain in the nerves around your face, your sinuses, and the roof of your mouth.
And even though it may not be as intense as a migraine, it is categorized as a true headache in the International Classifications of Headache Disorders.
As we all know, brain freeze is triggered by the consumption of something cold.
But how does it all work?
The brain freeze sensation happens when a cold substance gets behind the nose and palate, which is the roof of your mouth.
This lowers the temperature around the blood vessels close to the back of the throat, which includes the internal carotid artery and the anterior cerebral artery.
Both of which supply much of the brain with blood.
Now, your body isn’t the biggest fan of rapid temperature changes, and has come up with some coping mechanisms for when this occurs.
One of these tactics is the constriction, or tightening, of blood vessels to conserve heat.
So, when you eat a popsicle for example, the blood vessels near the back of your throat constrict because of the coldness.
Then they dilate, or expand, once they warm up.
But if this is all happening in your mouth, why do we feel it in our brains?
Well, it’s the result of a phenomenon called referred pain, which is when pain is felt in an area other than the actual source of the pain itself.
And it’s just the result of crossed signals in the process of pain transmission.
For example, this is why people feel pain in their left arms during a heart attack.
But in the case of brain freeze, the pain gets referred from the roof of your mouth to your forehead and scalp.
The good news is the pain is pretty short-lived, lasting from a few seconds to maybe a minute.
And brain freeze is generally harmless and isn’t linked to any neurological disorders, but it is linked to migraines since people who suffer from them are more prone to brain freeze.
This is because the same nerves in the palate trigger both types of headaches.
But science hasn’t been able to answer why some people don’t get brain freeze, as it’s a little-studied subject.
So if you don’t want to eliminate ice cream, popsicles, or Slurpees from your diet, how do you deal with or prevent brain freeze?
One solution is to eat cold things slowly and keep them in the front of your mouth for a while so they warm up before hitting the back of your throat.
Another trick is to chase a cold substance with something warm.
Pressing your tongue or thumb against the roof of your mouth can also help warm you up and potentially eliminate brain freeze.
Or breathing through your mouth and out your nose to pass warm air over the palate.
In any case, it’s not really that bad and totally worth it for two scoops of Rocky Road.