What is brain-freeze?

When something cold touches the roof of your mouth (your palate), the sudden temperature change of the tissue stimulates nerves to cause rapid enlargement (the anterior cerebral artery) and swelling of blood vessels. This is an attempt to direct blood to the area and warm it back up. As the cerebral artery shrinks back to its original size, restoring regular blood flow, the symptoms associated with brain freeze subsides.

Are migraine sufferers more vulnerable to brain freeze and how can this help research?

For a study, presented at the Experimental Biology 2012 in San Diego, researchers induced brain freeze in 13 healthy adults by having them sip ice cold water with a straw on their upper palate. The researchers monitored participants’ blood flow in their brains with a “trans-cranial Doppler test,” and found the sudden headache seems to be triggered by an abrupt increase in blood flow on the brain’s anterior cerebral artery. The pain disappears when that artery constricts, an effect researchers reproduced by having participants drink warm water.


According to the researchers, since migraine sufferers are more likely to experience brain freeze than people who don’t experience the icy headache often, brain freeze may share traits with other types of headaches, including those brought on by the trauma of blast-related combat injuries in soldiers or migraines. One possible link between brain freeze and other headaches is local changes in brain blood flow. If further research confirms all these types of headaches are caused by blood flow changes, new drugs that block widening of the blood vessels – called vasodilation – could improve treatment for sufferers.

Changing the Course of Headaches researchers speculate that the dilation, then quick constriction, may be a type of self-defense for the brain. “The brain is one of the relatively important organs in the body, and it needs to be working all the time,” they explained. “It’s fairly sensitive to temperature, so vasodilation might be moving warm blood inside tissue to make sure the brain stays warm.” But because the skull is a closed structure, the sudden influx of blood could raise pressure and induce pain. The following vasoconstriction may be a way to bring pressure down in the brain before it reaches dangerous levels.


Similar alterations in blood flow could be at work in migraines, post traumatic headaches, and other headache types. If further research confirms these suspicions, then finding ways to control blood flow could offer new treatments for these conditions.

At chiropractic dubai we look at the nervous system holistically, we restore blood flow and we try and find the root of the problem and avoid medication as far as possible.