ELI5- How does your body determine different pain, types? Burning, stinging, aching, stabbing, etc..


I just put hand sanitizer on an open cut and it stung a lot. It made me wonder why didn’t it have a burning feeling? Why didn’t it have an achy feeling?

In: 14

Basically your body has several different types of receptors that “feel” the pain as well as different types of nerves they use to convey that information to the brain and they also reach the brain at different speeds.

Depending on which kind of receptor sends the info through which kind of nerve, the brain interprets that as different kinds of pain. Being able to differentiate between different kinds of pain is very useful to us.

Imagine your body is like a big telephone with lots of wires that send messages to your brain. When you touch something hot, the wires in your skin send a message to your brain that says “ouch, this is hot!”

Different types of pain feel different because the wires that send the messages are a little bit different. When you touch something sharp, the wires in your skin send a message that says “ouch, this is poking me!” and when you touch something cold, the wires in your skin send a message that says “brr, this is chilly!”

So, depending on what kind of pain you feel, different wires in your body send messages to your brain, and that’s how your brain knows what kind of pain you’re feeling.