Quirky Questions: Why do teeny little paper cuts hurt so much?!

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Why do paper cuts hurt so much? They’re so small!

It’s all a matter of perception! Paper cuts usually occur on the superficial skin of the fingers, which is one of the most densely innervated parts of the body. Our hands and fingers play a vital role in helping us sense and interact with our surroundings, so they are jam-packed with nerves. The same small paper cut on a less nerve-dense area such as, say, your leg, will not send nearly as many pain signals to your brain…so it won’t hurt as much. Also, shallow paper cuts cause damage to superficial nerves, which we perceive as sharp, searing pain, as opposed to the dull, aching sensation produced by damage to deeper nerves. Lastly, a superficial paper cut usually draws little or no blood to clot and seal the wound, leaving the injured tissue exposed—and since we use our hands so much, we tend to pull the edges of the wound apart without thinking.

So what to do the next time you get a nasty paper cut? Cover it up! A little antibiotic ointment or Vaseline and a bandage will go a long way toward easing the pain.

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The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

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