Summer is the perfect time for some of your favorite hot-weather activities like swimming and of course, eating ice cream. If you’ve ever eaten ice cream or drank a cold liquid too fast, you’ve likely experienced a brain freeze. That instant painful headache might not seem like a big deal to you but it might actually help those who suffer from frequent migraines from TMJ. Ice cream headaches might be similar to migraines and even potentially prevent them.

Ice Cream Headaches May Be Vascular

It turns out that ice cream headaches or “brain freeze” have an actual name: sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, may be caused by the sudden increase in blood flow to the brain. In a 2012 study, researchers monitored the blood flow in the brains of 13 healthy adults who were drinking ice water through a straw to ensure the water contacted with their upper palate, the trigger point for ice cream headaches. When people drank ice water, the blood flow in the brain’s anterior cerebral artery increased, putting pressure on the brain and causing a headache. The pain lasts until the artery constricts.

According to the lead researcher on the study, it’s a self-defense mechanism. Because the brain is important and sensitive to temperature changes, the body responds to the introduction of cold material to the palate by increasing blood flow to keep the brain warm. The headache is a necessary sacrifice when protecting the brain from potential freezing. Since there is no publication of the study in a journal, it’s still in the works.

Brain Freeze and Migraines

The dilation of blood vessels in the brain can also cause migraines. However, the exact causes remain somewhat mysterious. People have been exploring the connection between the two for decades. According to a study from 1992, people with migraines were less likely to get brain freeze headaches, overturning previous notions that migraines and brain freeze were connected in some way.

However, there does seem to be at least an anecdotal connection between the two. More and more migraine sufferers are reporting that inducing an ice cream headache can actually stop a migraine attack in its early phases. Why this would be is mysterious, and the connection has not been investigated in any systematic way. We might think that increasing blood flow in the anterior cerebral artery on top of the already dilated blood flows associated with migraine pain would cause “double trouble,” but perhaps the brain freeze stimulus serves to regulate swelling in other blood vessels.

Proven Drug-Free Migraine Treatment in Irvine, CA

If you’re searching for drug-free migraine treatment in Irvine, CA, our TMJ dentists at Rice Dentistry can help. When you visit our dentists, they will examine your jaw to determine if you have TMJ. If you do, they will create a custom TMJ treatment plan to help relieve your frequent migraines. 

To learn whether TMJ treatment might be effective against your migraines, please contact Rice Dentistry in Irvine, California today.