Ever had a
bad case of sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, better
known as an ice cream headache or “brain freeze”?
This short-lived, painful headache occurs when
something cold—ice cream, frigid water, etc.—
stimulates the sphenopalatine nerve located above
the roof of your mouth and near the surface of
your face. In response to this cold stimulus, your
brain briefly constricts its blood vessels to reduce
blood flow, then abruptly dilates them. The ensuing
rush of blood causes the intense pain.
- To blunt
this response, try splashing cold water on your face several
times before you paddle, surf, or dive into frigid waters.
- Once the pain strikes,
push your tongue against the roof of your mouth to rewarm the sphenopalatine nerve
and reduce the headache’s duration and intensity.
- Or just grin and bear it. Brain freeze
usually lasts only a minute or less.
This column originally appeared in the print edition of AMC Outdoors along with the column "In Cold Water: How paddlers brave the icy rush." You can also learn more in my previous post, Cold Water Brain Freeze.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
Illustration by iStock.
Labels: Paddling, Winter