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Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Much?


You know the dreaded moment when you feel
that familiar but nevertheless shocking surge of pain on your finger. You were just trying to mail a letter to your
Great-Aunt Celia to thank her for the hand knitted mittens she sent you for Christmas,
and then it happens. Your fingertip is searing in pain; it feels
like a knife just sliced through your top few layers of skin. It’s such a small cut and barely even draws
any blood, so why does it hurt so bad? Let’s delve into that on this episode of
The Infographics Show, Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Bad? The dreadful paper cut is just a fun little
thing we humans unintentionally do to ourselves to keep us on our toes. You thought you had good hand-eye coordination? Well, think again. One reason why these annoying little cuts
hurt so badly is because they usually happen on our most sensitive areas like the fingertip,
lip, or tongue. The fingertip consists of layers of skin that
make paper cuts hurt more and bleed less. The outermost layer, which is known as the
epidermis, is very thin like a sheet of paper. Under that layer is the dermis. This is where all the nerve endings are. The dermis is a bit thicker, about 5 or 6
millimeters, and a paper can easily cut well into the dermis layer, lighting up all those
nerve endings and setting your fingertip on fire, not literally, of course. But the reason it doesn’t bleed very much
is that the cut doesn’t go deep enough to hit the blood vessels. That’s kind of good so you don’t make
a bloody mess all over your paper, but somehow it actually makes it worse since blood is
full of wound-healing chemicals that activate cells to get the blood to clot and protect
the wound. Unfortunately, a paper cut doesn’t get the
benefits of blood, so this relatively superficial cut may not heal as quickly. Another reason a paper cut hurts so much is
that even though a piece of paper is flimsy and doesn’t look anything like a blade,
the edge of a piece of paper can be razor-sharp. You can’t really see it with your naked
eye, but the edge of a piece of paper resembles something more like a saw with a serrated
edge and does a lot of microscopic damage to your fingertip when it cuts it. Have you ever tried to cut through something
with a dull knife? The knife pulls and tears rather than easily
slicing through it. That’s what paper does to your fingertip
when you get a paper cut. Now if you get cut by a piece of mail or a
well-worn library book, then there’s also the chance of bacteria being spread into your
paper cut, which can lead to infection. You definitely don’t want that to happen,
so make sure you always clean your paper cut with soap and water and cover it with a bandage
right away to prevent infection and keep it from reopening. Did you know that you have more nerve endings
in your fingertips than almost any other part of your body? That’s right, your fingers are jam-packed
with neurons. Some of these neurons are called nociceptors. These are sensory receptors to detect potential
harm. Nociceptors make it possible for the nerve
networks on your fingertips, lips, and tongue to precisely identify feelings of pressure,
heat, cold, and injury. Your brain even has a specialized area to
receive incoming signals from these parts in high-definition. The heightened sensing ability of your fingers,
lips, and tongue makes injuries to these parts of your body all the more painful. There’s also a psychological element to
the pain of a paper cut. Considering that these highly sensitive areas
are parts of the body that you use all of the time, it’s very near impossible to forget
about your injury. Another problem is that the fact that a paper
cut is a shallow wound that bleeds very little. This means the damaged nerve endings are left
exposed near the surface of your skin, making that area feel especially vulnerable to new
injuries. In addition, a fresh cut on your finger, lip,
or tongue will tend to reopen throughout the day, causing you to relive the sting over
and over again. If you were to get a paper cut on your forearm
or your back, the likelihood is that the sensation wouldn’t feel as sharp and painful since
your nerve endings are a bit more spread out on those parts of your body. If you’d like to try an interesting experiment
to test this out, try taking a paper clip and unbending it so that the two points match
up next to each other. Press the two points into your fingertip,
and your brain will sense that there are two different points of pressure. But if you take that same paper clip and press
it into your forearm or your back, your brain doesn’t register that there are two separate
points of pressure. You’ll just feel it as pressure in one area. Pretty cool, huh? What’s a small thing that causes larger
than expected pain to you? And be sure to check out our other video Illegal
Things That YOU Do Every Day! Thanks for watching, and as always, don’t
forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!

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