Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia

23 May

blueberry-smoothieIt’s that time of year again. Summer. Hot. Humid.

The urge to swap that hot coffee for a refreshing smoothie may overcome you.

But beware, drinking cold drinks can cause a condition called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.

Symptoms of this condition include an immediate, intense headache that goes away rather quickly. This mouthful of a term is otherwise known as brain freeze.

If you’ve ever had a Coke Icee at the movies, you’ve probably experienced this somewhat unpleasant sensation. The reason this occurs is because your brain is telling you the change in temperature was too rapid and to slow down, explained Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center neuroscientist Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D.

“Brain freeze is really a type of headache that is rapid in onset, but rapidly resolved as well,” he said. “Our mouths are highly vascularized, including the tongue – that’s why we take our temperatures there. But drinking a cold beverage fast doesn’t give the mouth time to absorb the cold very well.”

How does it happen?

The frozen beverage enters the back of the throat, which changes the temperature too quickly at the at the juncture of the internal carotoid artery. This artery feeds blood to the brain as well as to the anterior cerebral artery where the brain tissue begins.

“One thing the brain doesn’t like is for things to change, and brain freeze is a mechanism to prevent you from doing that,” Godwin said.

When it happens, your actual brain doesn’t feel the pain, but rather the receptors in the meninges–the outer covering of the brain–where the two arteries meet. It is the contraction and dilation of these arteries which causes the sensation of pain.

Godwin said that understanding brain freeze can help understand other types of headaches.

“We can’t easily give people migraines or a cluster headache, but we can easily induce brain freeze without any long-term problems,” he said. “We can learn something about headache mechanisms and extend that to our understanding to develop better treatments for patients.”

So, if you ended up shoving a whole ice cream cone in your mouth to avoid getting sticky from the melted mess, just place your tongue to the roof of your mouth to normalize the temperature.


4 Responses to “Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia”

  1. Grazia June 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    AHA! thats it thanks for the information.

  2. NYShaker4 June 1, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Maybe this condition and ” sex headache ” are relative. What if to many “brain freezes” can lead to “sex headache”??

  3. Linda m June 2, 2013 at 8:10 am #

    I’ve never gotten brain freeze but frequently migraines. I’ve heard the 2 don’t often happen in the same person…and I wonder why.


  1. Editor’s picks for 2013 | Layman's Terms Media - December 2, 2013

    […] Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia: It’s that time of year again. Summer. Hot. Humid.The urge to swap that hot coffee for a refreshing smoothie may overcome you. But beware, drinking cold drinks can cause a condition called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia.—> Continue reading […]

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