Even the smallest of paper cuts can leave you with a lingering, uncomfortable pain that feels like something much worse. Here’s why paper cuts are more irritating than most other cuts and scrapes.
Photo by Philip Wong.
Jason G. Goldman at BBC Future spoke with Dr. Hayley Goldbach, a resident physician at UCLA, to find out why paper cuts hurt more than most other cuts. Goldbach said it came down to these three key reasons:
- Most paper cuts happen on your fingers, where there are more pain receptors embedded in your skin than almost anywhere else in your body. But this is a good thing overall. Goldbach explains that fingertips are how we explore the world and perform delicate tasks, so they need a built-in safety mechanism.
- Paper edges look straight and smooth like a razor, but they’re actually more like a serrated saw blade. When you get cut, the paper is actually ripping, tearing, and shredding it’s way through your skin. Ouch.
- Paper cuts are deep enough to get past the top layers of the skin and reach the pain receptors, but shallow enough that they usually don’t result in much bleeding. That means blood doesn’t immediately rush in to clot, protect, and begin healing the wound. Your nerves remain exposed so they keep sending pain signals to the brain.
That’s why it’s important to quickly bandage a paper cut and protect it from the elements. Otherwise you’ll have a sore finger for much longer. If you seem to get paper cuts all the time, a little hand cream might help protect your poor fingers.
Why paper cuts hurt so much [BBC Future]