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Kendra Cherry

Why Do You Get Brain Freeze?

By July 26, 2010

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Have you ever wondered why you get "brain freeze" when you eat something cold such as ice cream or a milkshake? That sudden pain in your forehead is known in medicine as sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, and occurs because the abrupt change in temperature in the tissue at the roof of your mouth causes blood vessels to quickly swell in an effort to warm the area back up.


Image by Andy Reid

About.com's Guide to Chemistry, Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D., explains, "The dilation of the blood vessels triggers pain receptors, which release pain-causing prostaglandins, increase sensitivity to further pain, and produce inflammation while sending signals through the trigeminal nerve to alert the brain to the problem. Because the trigeminal nerve also senses facial pain, the brain interprets the pain signal as coming from the forehead. This is called 'referred pain' since the cause of the pain is in a different location from where you feel it."

Check out this brief video in which Dr. Charlotte Grayson explains the phenomenon and offers a few tips on how to avoid brain freeze. Why Do You Get Brain Freeze?

Comments

December 13, 2010 at 4:03 am
(1) Janet says:

I always get back freeze rather than brain freeze. I have never heard of anyone else like this. Can you tell me the reason?

March 18, 2011 at 12:50 pm
(2) gfdgd says:

i get throat freeze not brain

March 21, 2011 at 7:13 am
(3) maria_dlg says:

i get a back freeze too! i cannot find any info on it though, as to why… so glad i am not alone. :)

May 11, 2011 at 4:54 pm
(4) jack says:

You guys are freaks!

May 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm
(5) Aaron says:

Haha i agree! Back freeze?! you should go to the doctor haha

June 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm
(6) Rebecca says:

Often I get the brain freeze pain along my spine, lasting as long as the brain freeze does. Does anyone know why this happens? I can’t find any valuable information.

June 15, 2011 at 7:09 pm
(7) Kendra says:

I searched “back freeze” and noticed quite a few people in various forums saying they experience the same thing. While I didn’t find any explanations for this, I wonder if it might be an example of referred pain: http://surgery.about.com/od/glossaryofsurgicalterms/g/ReferredPain.htm

July 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm
(8) The American Homemaker says:

I get back freezes too!!!

September 12, 2011 at 1:50 am
(9) Kandice says:

I get an eye freeze lol one or both eyes will hurt really bad

October 12, 2011 at 12:40 am
(10) Idaho says:

I have never had a “brain freeze”, only a a sharp pain in the center of my back. A pain that feels like a knife is stuck in my back. The pain last for no more than a few minutes fortunately. I have spoken to doctors and they say the science behind a “back freeze” is impossible. I think we are a rare group who feel this pain.

October 20, 2011 at 1:52 pm
(11) nicole says:

I get Throat freezess .

November 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm
(12) therese says:

I also got back freeze and can’t find info on it yet

November 19, 2011 at 7:27 am
(13) Jana says:

I get a bad headache for hours when I get brain freeze. Unlucky me- brain freeze triggers a migraine.

December 5, 2011 at 11:00 am
(14) Julie says:

I get throat freezes as well…I wonder why the freeze points vary…can’t give me the “everyone’s different” excuse, since the throat and back freezes seem to be uncommon!

January 11, 2012 at 6:53 pm
(15) Eric says:

I got all u guys beat, before I got tonsillitis I would get brain-freeze very easy, but when I got tonsillitis, I started getting nipple-freeze. Every time I had 2 spoonfuls of ice-cream, a cold pain would shoot down to my right nipple. And if doctors think you back-freeze people are crazy, I don’t want to know what they’ll think about me!

January 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm
(16) TammieTea says:

I get chest freeze. I have never experienced the symptoms described above. Weird.

February 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm
(17) Becca says:

I simply just get pain in my temples which often causes back to my back n shoulders I believe from my body tensing up but it sucks. Nipple n back freeze. Don’t believe I’ve experienced that but man that’s interesting.

March 19, 2012 at 2:07 am
(18) joshua says:

I also get back freeze . Ur the weirdo not us

April 15, 2012 at 10:51 am
(19) bob says:

i get chest freezes and horible freezes that feel like there behind my left eye but not many brain freezes

April 29, 2012 at 10:36 pm
(20) Liz says:

My fiancee says I am crazy or some kind of alien because I get back freezes. He had never heard of such a thing until he met me. But now now I know I’m not alone.

May 1, 2012 at 1:52 pm
(21) Glenn says:

I also get a different response. While I do get a mild headache I get a much more pronouced pain that seems to start at the back of the throat, but proceeds quickly down to the centre of my chest. It almost feels like it is travel right down the centre of my body to the extent that I am not sure if I feel in as a back pain or a deep down chest pain.

May 2, 2012 at 5:47 pm
(22) jeanne says:

I saw a neurologist yesterday at Johns Hopkins due to a lot of neurological symptoms, not a head ache. he asked me if I ever got a brain freeze when I eat something cold. I told him sometimes. his diagnosis was that only people with migraines get brain freezes so deal with it. And he is a professor at Johns Hopkins!!!!!

May 4, 2012 at 4:48 pm
(23) Micki says:

They were laughing at me at work because no one had ever heard of back freeze. I going to show them so they can see that I am not the only one!

May 31, 2012 at 1:29 am
(24) Ashley says:

I wonder if it has something to do with location of nerves for the referred pain or something. That makes sense though because if you press your thumb to the roof of your mouth it makes your brain freeze go away. So try that.

July 8, 2012 at 12:12 am
(25) tish says:

I get eye freeze

July 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm
(26) kassi says:

when i laugh really hard i get a brain freeze that last me about 2 to 5 mins, dont know why I went to the doctor, I want to get a cat scan.

August 4, 2012 at 4:20 pm
(27) Jean says:

I’ve had back freeze, too!!! Never had brain freeze. So glad to see I’m not alone.

August 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm
(28) kim says:

I get eye freeze and chest freeze .

September 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm
(29) kelly says:

I get back freeze too!!

September 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm
(30) janet says:

I have never heard of a back, eye, chest, or nipple freeze! All I know is that each time I get a brain freeze it seems to be worse with every subsequent episode?

October 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm
(31) shelby says:

Lmfao at all of these comments. I just wanted to know why we got brain freezes… then I read all of this stuff about backs and nipples and throats. I mean, omg lol. Thank you all for the entertainment!

October 15, 2012 at 3:01 pm
(32) glenda says:

I get the back freeze to, I am glad to see I am not alone..I would like to know what causes this .

November 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm
(33) Cole says:

I sometimes get back freeze, but mostly throat freeze or MOUTH FREEZE

November 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm
(34) ayla says:

OH my god there are other people who get back freeze?! i thought i was the only one. the only thing i can think of is that the nerves in our back are a lot more sensative to cold… and since the spinal cord is connected to the brain, maybe thats what causes it? Id like to know too!

December 14, 2012 at 6:02 pm
(35) sade thomas says:

instead of brain fezzes I get chest freezes. dont call me wird cause it happened

January 24, 2013 at 1:36 pm
(36) Pamela E. says:

I’ve always gotten Spinal Freezes when I ate something cold. I’ve had that problem since I was really little and I’m 27 now. =/

Everyone else in my family has gotten the normal Brain Freeze, so I don’t know why I’m so different. Maybe I hit my head harder than my mom thought when her BF threw me down the stairs as a baby. The doctors told her I was ok, but I don’t know.

Do you think it could be an effect of that?

February 3, 2013 at 8:09 pm
(37) frances says:

I was googling body freezes because I was at bay As in Autin and I was dowing my first “earth margarta” and I was trying to finish the whole thing in 3 to 5 minutes but I couldn’t bc I kept getting this pain in either my chest or back. I never got a brain freeze while drinking it. Just a body freeze. It was weird yet excruciating.(sp) I got real typsy off one margarita. Omg

February 12, 2013 at 4:11 am
(38) Aaron says:

I get brain freeze even drinking smoothies gave me brain freeze.Eating spicy pizza helped me out.

February 23, 2013 at 12:21 am
(39) :) says:

Omg so my grandma just got one and was rubbing her forehead so I looked up why you get those I always thought it was from drinking or whatever too much but I guess it really kind of is thanks for your help I appreciate it and you are so smart hope you see this :) !!:) haha lol bye have a nice night/day

March 16, 2013 at 9:15 am
(40) justin mathew says:

it started befor6 years…….
i get freesed my brain.not becaus of iced one………
it freezes without any reason and on that time i am not at all do any work properly…….even i had lost my exam………it badly affect me

March 16, 2013 at 11:27 pm
(41) Kelsee says:

I haven’t ever gotten a brain freeze. What’s wrong with me? Even when I chug stuff I’ve never gotten a brain freeze, only chest freezes.

April 17, 2013 at 4:22 pm
(42) breshaud says:

I stop getting brain freezes…I get neck freeze now..

May 1, 2013 at 7:11 pm
(43) jane says:

I also get the back freeze . I have to say I am so glad other people get it. I have nt always had it only for about the last 5 years or so. I am thinking it has something to do with nerve damage , Maybe the trigeminal nerve.

May 2, 2013 at 1:45 pm
(44) Princess says:

Glad I’m not the only one to get Spinal Freeze along with the Brain Freeze. I also get Teeth/Mouth Freeze. Never a eye freeze…..or nipple freeze for that matter. Lol. I’m sitting here at Sonic drinking a Route 44 Slush and that coldness went down my spine so fast, it sparked curiosity as to why Brain/Spine/Teeth/Etc Freezes occur.

May 6, 2013 at 1:02 am
(45) jonemitch says:

Have you guys with throat and back freeze had your tonsils removed?

May 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm
(46) Cuata says:

I get a VERY PAINFUL EYE FREEZE on my right eye instead of brain freeze! I’ve never understood why. Does anyone know the answer to this????

May 27, 2013 at 8:32 pm
(47) Raye says:

Have never had brain freeze..Only chest freeze..I have also suffered most of my life with severe migraines…The chest freeze is very painful and lasts a couple of minutes..but levels off if I drink something warm!

June 4, 2013 at 7:03 am
(48) Audrey says:

I get back freeze and brain/eye freeze, but recently I have started to get a similar feeling in my back when I drink hot liquids so I guess that would be “back burn”. I think it actually is my stomach causing the pain in both back freeze and back burn, but I feel it in my back. I asked my doctor about it and he looked at me like I was crazy and didn’t even comment on it. lol

June 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm
(49) Myya Jones says:

I get brain and back freezes as well. Today I asked colleagues if they ever had this happen and they said no and laughed at me. They never heard of it so I had to google to make sure I wasn’t alone.

July 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm
(50) Random says:

I also get tooth freeze because I put my tooth in something cold

July 24, 2013 at 4:56 pm
(51) lashonda says:

My husband has stomach freezes and he thinks I’m weird cause I have brain freezes didn’t no people have nerves in there stomach

August 5, 2013 at 3:24 pm
(52) anon says:

i get only brain freeze..never back freeze…or nipple freeze :D

August 10, 2013 at 3:31 am
(53) Leslie says:

I have never gotten a brain freeze, just throat freezes, my sister gets back freezes. I have suffered my whole life from debilitating migraines. I know tons of people that don’t get migraines but do get brain freezes. And loads of people that get migraines and have never had a brain freeze. :/

October 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm
(54) wat says:

I don’t get a brain-freeze, but often I get brain-dead. lol.

October 14, 2013 at 9:56 pm
(55) Fvc says:

My brother and i cant get a brain freeze any explaination (besides no brain no pain like my mom says) fyi i got straight As

October 14, 2013 at 10:14 pm
(56) G says:

I also get spine freeze instead of my head. I wondered if anyone else got that. I was looking this up for my daughter and decided to see if I was alone. lol. guess not.

November 4, 2013 at 11:32 pm
(57) oucky7 says:

I get back freeze too!!! More like at the top of my shoulders mostly. It hurts sooooo bad! My brain freeze goes from my head straight to my back. Even down my spine. Absolutely some of the worse pain. :/

November 12, 2013 at 8:48 am
(58) Remmik says:

I get severe brain freezes and chest freezes! Chest freezes came later in life as I never used to get that but always had brain freeze. Correct me if I’m wrong but the brain freeze is the same thing as the eye/forehead freeze (or fivehead if you have a real big forehead like Dan Newlin LOL)). I mean no one can actually feel their brain in pain since there is no pain receptors/nerves in the brain.
The chest pain was scary the first time it happened. I thought my body was freaking out so bad for the brain freeze that I was having a heart attack. Although, the pain was right where my rib cage ends, which would be a little low for a heart attack. As soon as the brain freeze subsided so did the pain in my chest. I doubt highly that it has anything to do with freezing your esophagus. Anything you drink will instantly start warming up and by the time gets down your throat, the temp rises in the liquid enough to not be an issue (holding the liquid in my mouth for a second if enough to avoid the brain freeze).
I could be wrong, but I think it’s nerves from the rear roof of your mouth that are radiating out ghost pain to other parts of the body (like the forehead, eyes, back And yes, maybe even the nipples). Nipple Freeze! That’s funny!….not laughing at someones condition….laughing with them (I hope).
Glad to hear I might not be havnig heart issues, though!!

November 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm
(59) Flipmasterlee says:

I also get back freeze…glad to know that there are others with this weird feeling

December 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm
(60) lolo says:

back freeze is not real, my mouth hurts right now

December 16, 2013 at 8:35 pm
(61) russ says:

My kids call it a slurpy tumor :)

December 19, 2013 at 10:44 pm
(62) Hernandez says:

My 7 year old son gets these brain freeze…without even eating or drinking anything cold …took him to the doctor and now he has to get an MRI …they think it has something to do with his heart.:(..We just hope and pray for the best ..

December 22, 2013 at 3:44 am
(63) Stomach Freeze says:

I used to get brain freeze – also in the eye, really bad behind the eye which I always called “brain freeze”, not eye freeze …

But somewhere in my adulthood I don’t get it — I get stomach freeze, too.

I was told by a friend whose daughter always had stomach freeze, had never once had brain freeze, that her Dr said there are no nerves in your stomach so it registers in your brain (short version).

A couple of years ago, for completely unrelated reason, I had to see a GI specialist — a STOMACH and digestive system specialist — hello.

I told him about this, and he said he’d NEVER HEARD OF IT — never heard of stomach freeze from a GI specialist?

Now using Dr Google I realize it’s not very common – wonder what it is. And why I went from brain freeze, then gained some weight, to stomach freeze.

December 22, 2013 at 3:48 am
(64) Stomach Freeze says:

Also, someone above said they doubt it could have to do with the esophagus, etc. as things warm up as soon as they go down … No. They do not, not if you drink too much icy stuff too fast.

I know this because I get only the stomach freeze, and I have had it happen once while there happened to be hot coffee near me and I drank that directly after and it eliminated the stomach freeze immediately. Ahhhhh.

I feel everything that I swallow as it travels down — cold, warm, etc.

I don’t know if I always did or if it’s something new since the stomach freeze came into play. But I have only had brain freeze once or twice, if memory serves, in the past 10 or 15 years since the stomach freeze took it’s place.

Bizarre that even a GI specialist had never heard of stomach freeze instead of brain freeze.

January 24, 2014 at 8:47 pm
(65) Karah says:

I’ve never had a brain freeze. I always have chest freezes. I didn’t know there was such a thing.

February 23, 2014 at 1:55 pm
(66) jlo says:

As for the doc at John Hopkins I get brain freeze from ice cream etc. and I’ve never had a migraine in my life!

February 24, 2014 at 2:11 pm
(67) Amber says:

I also get back freezes. Never brain freeze. I get a sharp pain in the middle of my back/spine.. Glad I’m not the only one!

March 21, 2014 at 7:52 pm
(68) Audrey says:

I get back freeze too….also through 2 labor and deliveries, I had severe back pain during the contractions…my Dad has had 7 lamenectomies (7), so maybe genetic?

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