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Why Do You Get Brain Freeze?

By , black-rose-bielefeld.de GuideJuly 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

black-rose-bielefeld.de'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?


December 13, 2010 at 4:03 am

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

i get throat freeze not brain

March 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

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

You guys are freaks!

May 14, 2011 at 3:55 pm

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

June 15, 2011 at 4:18 pm

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

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.black-rose-bielefeld.de/od/glossaryofsurgicalterms/g/ReferredPain.htm

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

I get back freezes too!!!

September 12, 2011 at 1:50 am

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

October 12, 2011 at 12:40 am

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

I get Throat freezess .

November 2, 2011 at 11:53 pm

I also got back freeze and can?t find info on it yet

November 19, 2011 at 7:27 am

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

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

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

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

February 12, 2012 at 7:59 pm

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

I also get back freeze . Ur the weirdo not us

April 15, 2012 at 10:51 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

I get eye freeze

July 11, 2012 at 3:56 pm

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

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

I get eye freeze and chest freeze .

September 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I get back freeze too!!

September 21, 2012 at 2:13 pm

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

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

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

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

November 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

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 thomassays:

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

January 24, 2021 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, 2021 at 8:09 pm

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, 2021 at 4:11 am

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

February 23, 2021 at 12:21 am

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, 2021 at 9:15 am
(40)justin mathewsays:

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, 2021 at 11:27 pm

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, 2021 at 4:22 pm

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

May 1, 2021 at 7:11 pm

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, 2021 at 1:45 pm

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, 2021 at 1:02 am

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

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