Here Are The Real Reasons Why Paper Cuts Hurt So Badly

Paper cuts may be little, but they pack a massive punch in the pain department. If the paper cut is in a particularly bad location, the pain will be even worse. We often wonder why paper-cut pain is so wretched - and long for a cure to make that horrible sting go away.

Don't stress - there are ways to treat this specific type of injury. You don't have to go around with an injured finger forever. 


  • Your Fingertips Have A Ton Of Nerve Endings
    Photo: Chaumurky / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Your Fingertips Have A Ton Of Nerve Endings

    Paper cuts on your fingers tend to hurt badly because the hands have a lot of nerve endings, which increase sensitivity. There are more nerve endings and pain receptors in the fingertips than almost anywhere else in the body. Additionally, the nerves are very close together; even a minuscule cut can cause a significant reaction. When you accidentally slice a finger, receptors light up and send pain signals to the brain.

  • Your Brain Thinks You're Hurt Worse Than You Are

    Due to the high amount of nerve endings in our digits, the brain can freak out about finger cuts.The brain realizes the importance of one's hands and pays close attention to their sensory signals. An injured hand is likely to send a fast, intense response to the brain, not differentiating between a large wound and a small paper nick.

    Plus, separate areas of the brain deal with different parts of the body. The section of the brain responsible for the fingers takes up more space than the areas devoted to the legs and torso combined.

  • Paper Edges Are Serrated, Not Smooth
    Photo: Captured Heart / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Paper Edges Are Serrated, Not Smooth

    Paper is made from pressed wood particles, which results in rough edges. The sheets look smooth, but a microscope shows the edges are jagged and serrated like a bread knife.

    When paper cuts you, the slices aren't precise like ones from a surgical tool. Your skin is ripped and torn, even if the abrasion happens quickly. The tearing motion causes greater reactions in the nerve endings.

  • Paper Cuts Don't Clot Immediately

    Usually, paper cuts aren't very deep. The shallowness doesn't reduce pain, however. Many nerve endings rest right below the top layer of skin, and paper slices down to where the nerve endings are most dense.

    These superficial slashes stay open longer; the body doesn't register the need to clot and scab immediately on shallow wounds. Ultimately, the cut is exposed to the air for longer, and the pain lingers.

  • Certain Paper Causes More Pain Than Others
    Photo: ambird / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Certain Paper Causes More Pain Than Others

    The type of paper that cuts you affects the level of pain. Soft paper, like the kind used in newspapers and dollar bills, is less likely to nick. That's why you rarely get paper cuts while fumbling for money. Thick sheets of construction paper have a low risk, as well.

    Other types of paper, such as envelopes, may contain substances used for adhesion. When you're cut with these sorts of paper products, tiny particles, chemicals, and bacteria can get into the wound, acting as irritants.

  • Finger Paper Cuts Take A Long Time To Heal

    Paper cuts occur most often on the hands, and humans use their hands constantly. The wounded skin there stretches, opening repeatedly and inhibiting scabs. Even hand-washing can irritate the damaged skin. Cuts on other parts of the body, however, can close more quickly because they have the opportunity to clot.