Ice Cream Headache’s So-Called Migraine Link

Earlier this summer you probably read a bunch of news stories about research related to that much-dreaded summer companion, the ice cream headache, and its relationship with migraine. Unfortunately, the fuss about this research study is largely misguided. While the research definitely doesn’t tell us anything new about migraine, (it almost seems to go backwards in a weird way) it does identify a potentially useful research tool.

These researchers asked 13 volunteers to drink a cold drink in a specific way to bring about a brain freeze, aka ice cream headache, that sudden headache that sometimes results when you quickly ingest something cold. The researchers observed that ice cream headaches are caused by the expansion of blood vessels and that they end when the blood vessels constrict.

If you’re wondering what any of this has to do with migraine, the answer is very, very little.

It’s nothing new to demonstrate that blood vessels in the brain sometimes expand and contract during a migraine attack. This has been known about the migraine process for years. Importantly, leading migraine researchers no longer believe vascular activitiy is the cause of migraine. Instead they believe it is a process that sometimes happens during an attack. The vascular theory of migraine has been around for hundreds of years, but it is no longer the prevailing theory to explain migraine.

On the up side, the researchers in this study established the possibility of using brain freeze or ice cream headaches for research purposes. Other methods of inducing a migraine attack for research purposes, such as use of medication, can result in side effects that distort research data. Researchers may find it advantageous to have the option of inducing brain freeze or an ice cream headache instead.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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