There are many large and confusing words within the medical community that can help us unlock and understand more about our migraines and headaches.
One of these is the sphenopalatine ganglion.
In this article, we will cover 2 differences between sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block which may be used for headaches or migraines and sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia which is something completely different.
What is sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block?
The Sphenopalatine ganglion is a hub for nerves that stem out from it.
It is located near the sphenoid bone and palatine bones. This is just above our palate and inside our sinus which makes it easily accessible through the nose.
This nerve has been blamed as the central point for some types of head pains and neuralgias so the basic concept is to block the action of this nerve with an anaesthetic so that it stops transmitting pain signals and we experience relief.
This ganglion(hub of nerves) is connected to the pons of the brainstem through cranial nerve 7 which can be seen here:
It is important to note the pons and brain stems involvement as they are key regulators in all of our autonomic functions.
Autonomic functions are all of the systems in the body that function without our conscious control like breathing, blood pressure, digestion, sleep, heart rate etc.
So we may even be able to draw some connections between how much pressure the regulation of these systems causes on our brain stem and certain types of pain that radiate out of the sphenopalatine ganglion.
So the sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block is simply a nerve block that is done to this specific nerve.
It can be a very simple procedure involving only some lidocaine/bupivicaine and a long cotton swab placed into the sinuses.
It’s much less invasive than other nerve blocks but still doesn’t address the root of what’s causing the headaches which is what we should always strive for.
See the video below for a visual demonstration of a sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block:
What is sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia?
Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia is something completely different.
Simply put, it’s a brain freeze or ice cream headache.
A brain freeze is when you ingest a cold food or drink quickly.
When the temperature of the arteries on the back of your throat quickly drops because of quick ingestion then the arteries constrict.
The constriction of these arteries causes a drop in blood flow to the brain and signals pain nerves to trigger.
Remember: pain is a protective mechanism in response to a stimulus
In migraines that stimulus may be food triggers or nutrient deficiencies causing chaos in the brain but in sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia it is the cold of a food or a drink that constricts blood vessels, restricts blood flow and triggers an alarm.
Lots of cold food/drink ingested quickly ->
= Cold arteries at the back of the throat
= Constricted blood vessels
= Restricted blood flow
See the video below to understand why ice cream headache, brain freeze or sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia happens:
Why it’s blatantly clear they are different but why they are also similar.
- A brain freeze is different from a nerve block.
- You would never get a nerve block for an ice cream headache.
- You may use a brain freeze as a method to reduce a preexisting migraine or headache but a nerve block would mostly be to prevent a future occurrence.
The most interesting piece of this for migraine and other chronic headache sufferers is that the cause of the ice cream headache is because of a constricting of blood vessels and the reduction of blood flow to the brain.
When blood flow is lowered the brain is starved for oxygen and cannot produce energy to run itself.
Supporting the brains energy generation systems and all of the different nutrients it needs like oxygen, magnesium, coQ10, B vitamins, butyrate etc may be one of the most important methods by which we can prevent our brain from turning on these pain responses.
This helps us understand why supplementation with nutrients works so well for migraines and other head pain conditions.
Want a deeper understanding of what’s going on?
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If you want to understand more about migraines then read our article on the headache that won’t go away and what to do about it here.
Have you ever experienced a brain freeze or ice cream headache?
Have you ever had a sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block?
Have you ever used a brain freeze to take the edge off a migraine?
Let me know in the comments below and share this with someone else suffering who may benefit.
Holistic Health Practitioner
Mark Canadic is a writer, speaker, holistic health practitioner and migraine community leader. Read Mark’s inspiring comeback story, “My Burnout and Brain Fires that Lead me to the Root.” Feel free to send Mark a message here.