Why do small cuts hurt more than large ones?

We all know that small, tiny cuts sting like there is no tomorrow, and that of course larger cuts hurt, but the pain is nothing like that of the sting of a small cut.

What are everyones’ thoughts on why this is?!

I heard the answer once… I think small cuts leave more live nerve ends.

Since this is still in MPSIMS instead of GQ, I feel that it’s kosher to offer a WAG, so here’s mine: Because you don’t see it as clearly as a larger cut, you don’t take extra special care to not subject a tiny cut to the kind of things that make it excruciating.

I don’t know, but it’s good to see you around again, Hippos. :slight_smile:

You expect a bigger cut to hurt.

You forget about the tiny ones. Til you squeeze a lime…encounter salt…immerse it in hot water… (no I don’t work at a bar, why do you think so?)

My favorites are the ones right on a joint, so that every time you bend it, they “smile.” Take twice as long to heal and are soooo farking annoying. Seal up already! Stop gaping open like that! I know you’re only a paper cut but I’m about to stab you with a fork!


Good to see you again, Hippos! :slight_smile:

My WAG is that you tend to get tiny cuts in places where you have lots and lots of nerve endings – like on your fingers. And then, like Audrey Levins said, you use your hands because they are, well, your hands, to squeeze a lemon or whatever.

Well, for one thing, you forgot the tequila; it works as an analgesic. Or so I’ve been told…:smiley:

A couple of years ago I was opening a can of cat food, and the lid slipped and sliced through that fleshy area between my thumb and hand. I had to go to the ER and get 9 stitches and a tetanus shot. But what I had done immediately was to wad up a paper towel, place it right over the wound, press my thumb against it, and wind an ace bandage around my hand, to keep the thumb pressed against it. Once I did that, the pain all but disappeared. I could take a shower (keeping the hand dry), get dressed and drive to the ER, and there was virtually no pain . . . until I had to unrap it and show the doctor what had happened.

So I had this serious cut, but until I unwrapped it,it barely hurt because I was carefully protecting it from further trauma. But if the cut had been smaller and not needed stitches, I would have just put a bandaid on it, which would have been inadequate to kill the pain. And every time it touched something the pain would get worse. I wouldn’t have treated it as carefully as the larger wound.

I suspect that part of it is the brain amplifying the pain from the smaller injury by design. If you think about it, pain can’t really be a linear matter of a wound ten times as big hurting ten times as bad; if that were so either tiny wounds would be unnoticeable, or something like a long thorn scratch would disable you with hundreds of times the pain of a pinprick. So there’s some kind of variable standard involved in how much a wound hurts for its size; and I suspect that tiny wounds get boosted to ensure you pay attention to them instead of ignoring them.

All pure speculation of my part, though.

Who says they do? Small cuts don’t hurt more than large cuts. The difference in perceived pain has nothing to do with the size of the cut, but rather the number of nocireceptive nerve endings that fire in response to the injury. I think the source of your confusion lies with the locations where these types of injuries occur. Small cuts tend to occur in places rich with nerve endings such as the fingers or face. Larger cuts usually take place in areas that aren’t as sensitive, like the arms, legs, torso, or whatever.

I’ve cut myself with knife or sharp scissors about the size and location of where a papercut would go and not noticed till I saw blood.

I think it’s not the size of the wound, but the sharpness of whatever it is that cuts you. Sharp knives and scissors do a clean job but paper is ragged and rough.


A slight hijack: Have you ever noticed that you can pinch the skin of your elbow and squeeze till your fingers go numb and it doesn’t hurt a lick.

But knock just the tiniest bit of skin off and it’s as if you set it on fire!

Huh. No, can’t say I had. How did you manage to compare those two things?