You may be the self-proclaimed toughest person you know, but no one is immune from the onslaught of pain brought on by a paper cut.
How does something so small and harmless cause so much anguish? The laceration is miniscule, so why is the pain massive?
We turn to science for the answer, and Science Alert says it’s all in the fingertips. The ends of our fingers are evolutionarily designed to be more sensitive, with high concentrations of nerve endings, and in turn, pain receptors.
“Fingertips are how we explore the world, how we do small delicate tasks,” says Hayley Goldbach a dermatologist at UCLA, via BBC. “So it makes sense that we have a lot of nerve endings there. It’s kind of a safety mechanism.”
Fingertips actually have the highest concentration of pain receptors (called nociceptors) in the entire human body. The signals sent to the brain are fast and intense, yielding a faster and more intense response.
Related: Meet the People Who Feel No Pain
The paper plays a role in your pain, too. The pulp particles of paper edges are akin to jagged mountain ranges, making cuts irregular and piercing, rather than a precise from something like a scalpel. Paper cuts are usually shallow, too, meaning the body can’t properly clot the wound, though it’s deep enough to set off the nociceptors.
So, there’s really no escaping the horrors of the paper cut. At least until your office switches to more environmentally-friendly Etch-A-Sketches for documents.
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