Andrea Lucchetti, owner of Wymondham Chiropractic Clinic, discusses the link between the brain freeze we experience when eating ice cream with research being done on headaches and migraines. 

One of the only places that Italians will patiently queue for is at the gelateria! Traditionally thought of as an Italian staple, gelato is a proud member of the Italian gastronomical family. It dates back to the 13th century and Marco Polo, but there are references to King Tang in ancient China eating ice mixed with buffalo milk around 3,000 years ago!

Gelato became popular following Italian mechanised mass production systems in the early 19th century. However, there is a difference between the ice cream made in England and gelato. Gelato contains less air, more fruit, and therefore less fat. The gelato is also served around five degrees warmer, something that in combination makes it a more intense eating experience. 

Typically, like most things that are yummy, you pay a price for eating them. With gelato, it’s brain freeze! This is a type of temporary, intense headache that is caused by over stimulated small blood vessels in the back of the throat. Scientists have studied brain freeze to try to find cures for both headaches and migraines. 

Headaches and migraines are not the same. Migraines are normally more intense, often one sided, and can be associated with an aura, feeling nauseous, and sensitivity to light and smells. Meanwhile, headaches are generally considered to be short-lived and caused by things such as stress, dehydration, bad posture, and bad eyesight. Many things, including noise, light, hormonal changes, smells, and foods, can stimulate migraines. 

Self-help for both conditions includes reducing stress, seeing an optician, checking your blood pressure, and drinking plenty of water. 

At my clinic, we find releasing tension in the upper neck and jaw muscles very helpful for both conditions. Often pressing on what we call trigger points in muscles in the face, neck or shoulders can refer pain into the place people feel their head pain is coming from. We always check a patient’s blood pressure and go through a thorough physical examination and case history. All our chiropractors mix hands-on therapies, such as massage, gentle spinal manipulation, and trigger point release, with acupuncture. We do both traditional acupuncture – work on classic points used for hundreds of years – and modern medical acupuncture that releases tension in tight muscles/trigger points. When we speak to our patients about headaches and migraines, we discuss whether they need to see their GP and whether medication could be helpful.

Next time you experience brain freeze, just think how useful that is in finding a cure for the debilitating headaches and migraines people suffer from. Now, what flavour gelato will you go for? 


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