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The Painful Paper-Cut

Daksha Shah 0

You are cleaning up your closet and you come across your old diary. Leafing through the pages, you reminisce those times and feel happy reading what you had penned down. While you were turning the pages, suddenly the Oh! So harmless looking paper, gives you a paper-cut.The happiness goes away and all you feel is the burning sensation and the tingling pain in your fingers. The sweet little cut is too much to bear. Wait! Did we say sweet? 

Paper cuts are anything but sweet. They may look small but hurt real bad. The worst part is the pain persists for days after the cut. What is it in the tiny cut that makes it so painful? Is it the revenge of the tree that was cut to make the paper? Or, is it that the paper has some superpowers?
Let’s figure out the reason behind the painful paper cuts.

The Reason
Well, both the paper and the skin is to be blamed for the painful nature of the cut. 

blausen_0803_skin_freenerveendingsOur Skin 
Our fingers and hands are very important as they are the vehicles by which we perceive the outside world. Owing to this feature, our fingers and hands are blessed with numerous nerves called “Nociceptors”. 

Nociceptors – these are the sensory nerve cells that respond to damaging or potentially damaging stimuli why-do-paper-cuts-hurt-so-muchby sending signals to the spinal cord and brain. This process, called nociception, usually causes the physical sensation of pain and hence these are also called as Pain receptors. They signal the brain about high temperatures, dangerous chemicals, and pressure that could break the skin. Our fingers and hands have the most concentrated colony of pain receptors than any other part of the body. 

As the paper slices the finger, it ruptures or injures the nerve endings of the many nociceptors colonizing the small area of the finger. They warn the brain of the damage and hence we perceive pain. 

nociThe paper cuts are not deep enough. The shallow nature of the cut does not ooze out too much of blood. There is no blood clot in the shallow injured part .Without the cushion of a blood clot, pain receptors are left exposed and any disturbance activates them to keep on sending the alarm bell, warning your brain of impending disaster.

Any movement in the fingers or hand pulls the skin apart and activates these open nerve endings to send signals of damage and pain to the brain.  This is the reason why we keep experiencing the pain even after days of the cut. 

What special about the paper?

papercutPaper cuts are most often caused by paper sheets that are strongly fastened together. The paper edges may look like smooth to the naked eye. But, if you see it under a microscope, you can find that the edges are not as smooth as they appear to be. 

The jagged edges of the paper can actually cause more destruction than what seems like a clean nick. So, the paper really rips, tears, and shreds your skin, rather than making a clean slice, as a razor or knife blade would do.

Moreover, the paper leaves behind some chemicals which might irritate the skin and increase the tingling sensation. 
In addition to the above reasons
there are chances that the paper might have many bacteria which may enter the wound through the cut. Though, the bacterial presence does not trigger the pain right away, but, it may result in infection and tissue damage and as a result worsen the pain.  

How to deal with the Paper-Cuts?

freaky-friday-mystery-why-paper-cuts-hurt-like-absolute-hell-471058-3Well, there is no point in crying, because the damage is already done. In the case of paper cuts, you can try the follow things to lessen the agony of the tiny nick.

i. Clean your finger– Wash your finger with water or some antiseptic liquid in order to wash away the chemicals or other foreign substances from the wound. 
ii. Apply some antibiotic – You can apply some antibiotic cream to the cut to prevent the growth of the microorganism and any infection due to the microbes. 
iii. Band-Aid – You can apply bandage to the cut. This would not leave the cut open and ensure quick healing. 


Now, that you know the reason behind the painful cut, never underestimate the power of the Paper. 
Happy reading!


Daksha Shah

Daksha is an integral part of the editorial team at Zigya. Armed with a B.Tech degree, she oversees content quality assurance for Biology. Her subtle wit, observation skills and agile demeanour bring the buzz in the editorial team and ensures meeting stiff deadlines. An astute blogger, when not working Daksha prefers to spend her time with her canine companion, Spiky. Follow her work at

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