Brain freeze, aka sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia

Do you know that strange, familiar, throbbing sensation in your head? One that hits you all immediately when you have consumed something cold? Like you have been smacked right in your face with a cold compress? Yes, yes, we can go on and you probably know by now that we are talking about the widely known phenomenon of ‘brain freeze’.



While it has happened to almost all of us — and more than once — there is a scientific reason behind it. In summers, especially, when we are downing slushies, smoothies and ice lollies, we get a ‘brain freeze’.  Well, our brain is not really freezing, but when we gulp down something real cold real fast, our body tells us to slow down and take it easy. In fact, there is a scientific name for it: sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia.


So what really happens to us?

When we consume a cold substance, we abruptly change the temperature at the back of our throat. There are two important arteries present there: the internal carotid artery, which takes blood to the brain, and the anterior cerebral artery, from where the brain tissue starts.


Experts say that the brain per se doesn’t actually feel the pain. It’s the receptors in the outer covering of the brain — called meninges — which sense the pain. The two aforementioned arteries dilate and contract when anything cold hits, and it is this very sensation that the brain perceives as pain.


What is the cure?

Don’t gulp down a cold drink all immediately maybe? Take small sips/bites so you both savor it and prevent sphenopalatine ganglion neuralgia from happening. Also, you can try pressing your tongue to the roof of your mouth or consume something that is slightly warmer to get instant relief.

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