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Why do paper cuts hurt so much?

The disproportionate amount of pain caused by a tiny paper cut is mind-blowing. These cuts typically occur on fingertips, which are among the most sensitive parts of the body. In fact, they are made up of complex tissue for good reason.

Pain receptors in the fingertips

Fingertips have one of the largest numbers of pain and touch receptors in a given area compared to other parts of the body. These receptors play a crucial role in identifying objects and determining their size, shape, texture and temperature.

Neurons in fingertips quickly respond to extreme high and low temperatures, harmful pressure to the skin, and dangerous chemicals, all in an effort to ward off danger.

“Fingertips have a large representation in the brain, so when a person experiences a paper cut, the pain receptors become exposed and are activated, sending intensified signals to the brain,” says Gathline Etienne, M.D., a neurologist at Piedmont. “Also, paper is dull and cuts more like a jagged saw as opposed to a sharp blade, and this exposes more of these pain receptors.”

Why paper cuts are so painful

  • Paper edges are jagged and rough, not smooth.
  • Shallow paper cuts do not bleed or clot much, leaving nerves exposed.
  • The continuous use and movement of hands and fingers causes wounds to reopen easily, making them slow to heal.
  • Paper is treated with chemicals that can irritate the skin.

Next time you get a paper cut, you’ll know why it’s so painful.

For more helpful, healthful information, click here

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