The next time you eat ice cream, and your forehead starts throbbing with a sharp pain, you might want to consider what is actually causing that headache. According to Johns Hopkins University, the bout of radiating pain in your head after eating cold food is known as cold neuralgia or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. Also known as ‘brain freeze’!
There isn’t much research on brain freeze. It’s likely caused by your body entering survival mode when it detects a freezing temperature on the roof of the mouth. Our system constricts blood vessels in the palate to preserve our core temperature. When they rapidly open back up, a pain signal is sent to the brain via a nerve that leads directly to the mid-face and forehead, and your face bears the brunt of the referred pain from the mouth.
A brain freeze typically lasts less than five minutes. But when your head is throbbing, that can feel like forever. To minimize the pain, the best strategy is to warm the palate up. You can do this by pressing your tongue or a thumb against the roof of your mouth, by drinking a warm liquid, or both. Covering your face and breathing into your hands can also warm the air inside your mouth that was chilled by the ice cream, providing quicker relief! The best advice may be to take smaller bites or licks and not have it happen at all!
Image source: https://daily.jstor.org/causes-brain-freeze