What Causes Brain Freeze?
posted: Jul. 21, 2020.
We have all had the sensation of intense headache if we try to eat something frozen very quickly such as a popsicle or slushie. The headache will last approximately 5-15 seconds and the pain is similar in intensity to the pain felt by patients with severe migraine headaches. But what neurologic mechanism sets off this intense pain?
The brain can't actually feel pain despite its billions of neurons but the pain associated with brain freeze is sensed by receptors in the outer covering of the brain called the meninges, where the two main brain arteries meet. When the cold hits, it causes a dilation and then contraction of these arteries and that's the sensation that the brain is interpreting as pain.
What can we do to prevent and treat this pain? Prevention is most important. We have to remember to eat frozen food very slowly. Once the pain is present we can stop it by drinking something warm or by putting our tongues on the roof of our mouth to warm the upper palate relieving the symptoms.