Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Ice cream headache

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 10 May 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:1364

Rapid Response:

Could be referred pain?

I believe that the 'brain freeze' could be caused by referred pain
due to stimulation of pain receptors in the palette. These receptors may
propogate action potentials along non-myelinated fibres, accounting for
the latency before the pain is felt.

Nociceptors (pain receptors) do not show a short-term adaptive
response, and this could explain why the pain does not seem to dissapate
until the palette is warmed again (by the toungue etc.). Also, the pain I
feel when experiencing a brain freeze reminds me of that experienced when
eating horseradish or wasabe. Both of which contain isothiocynates, which
activate the receptor responsible for painful cold sensation.

The pain felt in the throat and stomach reported by some people could
simply be a result of quickly swallowing the cold substance so it is still
cold when reaching the throat and passing through the thorax.

This is merely speculation and I apologise if I have stated anything

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

27 May 2005
David Franks
Cambridge University