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Brain Freeze May Yield Clues About Migraine Headaches

By May 11, 2012

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If you're the type of person that enjoys indulging in the occasional frozen treat -- then it's likely you've experienced "brain freeze" -- that sharp pain in your temples that comes on instantaneously when something cold hits the inside of your mouth. And I know we've said a little sugar can be good for warding off some types of headaches -- if that sugar is in the form of a triple gelato scoop - beware! For decades, researchers were clueless about why brain freeze occurs. Recently, several  studies have shown that people who get migraines are also more likely to get brain freeze.


Because it can be hard to study the standard kind of headache in a laboratory environment, scientists are now looking at using brain freeze as a model. Brain freeze can be a useful model because while a headache may come on unpredictably, brain freeze can be induced on the spot. That means you can control when it comes on and off. In a recent study, 13 volunteers were asked to sip ice water through a straw until it brought on brain freeze.  When the subject signaled the researcher that the brain freeze was brought on, the scientists used imaging techniques to measure the patterns of blood flow in the vessels surrounding their brains. What the study aimed to map is whether the same patterns of blood flow that cause the pain in brain freeze cause the pain in migraines. But further studies are needed to really make the link.


Are you a migraine sufferer that regularly experiences brain freeze? If so, tell us about it.

May 19, 2012 at 12:46 am
(1) AJB says:

This is a comment I’ve been waiting to make for some time but until now never seemed to find a good place to make it. I am a migraine sufferer and also seem to be quite susceptible to brain freeze. I have noticed , in my own case, that brain freeze happens when the ice cream goes down my throat but gets stuck at the entrance to my stomach. The sphincter at the entrance to my stomach seems to sometimes not want to let cold things in. A quick swallow of room temp. water makes the sphincter open and instantly relieves the intense pain. I can hold ice cream in my mouth all day and all night without any pain but if I swallow it and it gets “stuck”, then total agony. I find it hard to believe that I am unique in this regard and wonder if this “roof of the mouth thing” was just somebody’s speculation that got passed around to the point that the speculation part started getting left out and somehow it turned into a “fact”. .

May 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm
(2) Denise says:

I haven’t heard of LES — lower esophageal sphincter not allowing cold to be admitted – I would definitnitely speak to a doc about it.

That is most interesting and I am sorry to hear you suffer from that – I hope you find a solution beyond the warm water.

I get the brain freeze easily – my husband finds cold temps to be a problem – he doesn’t even use ice in his water – we both have migraines.

Our older – adopted – also suffers from migraines – he is just 13 and has had them for years – I have heard him mention brain freeze more than younger son who has other issues – he fortunately doesn’t have migraines – but he will probably develop schizophrenia

May 26, 2012 at 9:38 am
(3) Betsy says:

I’ve suffered from migraines since I was very young as well as brain freeze. I only place very small amounts of anything cold in my mouth at a time so that I can control what part of my mouth it will touch. I have a 16 year old daughter and a 12 year old son who also suffer from migraines and often complain of brain freeze when eating ice cream.

June 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm
(4) Ben says:

I have been a migraine sufferer for over 69 years. I have also been overly sensitive to brain freeze’ especially in the last 10 years or so. I experience brain freeze as soon as the cold medium rests against the back of the roof of my mouth. The quickest way to relieve it is with room temperature liquid against the same area.

June 7, 2012 at 10:38 am
(5) donna says:

When I saw online that some got relief from their migraines with brain freeze, I tried to induce to see if it would help me. No matter how fast I ate the iced product, I have never had brain freeze – ever. My husband gets brain freeze all of the time and has never had a migraine. Go figure.

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