Paper cuts are probably the tiniest, most harmless injuries we can sustain. But as I’m sure you can attest, they hurt a ton more than many of us would expect.
We’ve all experienced that surprisingly painful sensation that comes from accidentally slicing our fingers with the edge of a piece of paper. You’d think a little cut like that wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s as if your skin has been ripped open — and in actuality, it has, just on a very small scale.
So why do these seemingly inconsequential wounds hurt so much?
In a nutshell, paper acts as a much smaller handsaw. It’s several times thinner than the average kitchen knife blade, allowing it to make very fine cuts on the skin despite its flimsiness.
Thin cuts can activate a large number of nociceptors, or our pain receptors, over a small surface area. Our fingers have an especially high concentration of nociceptors, making paper cuts especially painful.
Paper cuts also tend to not bleed as much as other cuts, exposing more pain receptors to the air, which then send more pain signals to the brain. Learn more about why paper cuts hurt so much below.
This probably explains why my dry, cracked fingers during the wintertime are so difficult to tolerate. Who knew paper could be such an effective weapon?