The scientific name for a brain freeze headache is Sphenopalatine Ganglioneuraliga. It is thought that a brain freeze headache is due to changes in brain blood flow. In a study from 2012 researchers monitored volunteers’ blood flow in several brain arteries using Trans-cranial Doppler while they sipped ice water with a straw pressed against their upper palate. (It is thought that the cold fluid touching the roof of the mouth is the best conditions for creating a brain freeze headache).
The findings from this study showed that the cerebral artery dilated rapidly and flooded the brain with blood in conjunction to when the volunteers felt pain. Soon after this dilation occurred, the artery then constricted and the pain stopped.
Why does this occur?
The researchers suggested that this dilation of the arteries is a protective mechanism for the brain. They said that the brain is “fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm”. However, because the skull can’t expand, the sudden influx of blood could raise the pressure in the brain and create the pain. When the artery constricts again, the pressure drops and the pain stops.
How the Brain Freeze is linked with other types of headaches
The researchers suggest that similar changes in blood flow could be at work in migraines, post traumatic headaches and other headache types. In fact, some researchers are using brain freeze headaches as a proxy for other types of headaches. If they are able to learn more about a simple brain freeze headache, maybe they can find methods for helping other more serious headaches like migraines.
One home remedy for migraines is thought to be self-inflicted brain freeze headaches. Some migraine sufferers have found that creating a brain freeze headache can often reduce the migraine. You don’t have to eat ice-cream to create one. Drinking iced-water through a straw that is touching the roof of your mouth is thought to create the best conditions for a brain freeze headache.
How to stop a brain freeze headache
The answer for this is quite simple, stop drinking or eating the cold stuff. You could also push your tongue against the roof of your mouth or drink a tepid beverage to help normalize the temperature in the mouth. Luckily for most people, these brain freeze headaches don't last very long.