Why do paper cuts hurt so much?

Paper can cut your skin as it is incredibly thin and, if you were to look at it under a high-powered microscope, it has serrated edges. Critically though, a sheet of loose paper is far too soft and flexible to exert enough pressure to pierce the skin, hence why they are not a more frequent occurrence.

However, if the paper is fixed in place – maybe by being sandwiched within a pack of paper – a sheet can become stiff enough to attain skin-cutting pressure.

Paper cuts are so painful once inflicted as they stimulate a large number of pain receptors – nociceptors send nerve signals to the spinal cord and brain – in a very small area due to the razor-type incision.

Further, because paper cuts tend not to be very deep, bleeding is limited, leaving the pain receptors open to the surrounding environment.