Welcome to the newest edition of The Why. “Why does something itch more after you scratch it?” you ask? Good question. Timely too. (Besides, it gives us a chance to avoid all those questions about sex, religion and politics.)
Have you ever stood in the bathroom with your undies down around your ankles scratching yourself because it feels so d@mn good? Have you ever noticed once you stopped scratching yourself it itched even more than when you first scratched yourself?
If men and mice are similar then our friend Justine Alford of IFL Science has come across a new study published in Neuron that confirms our previous suspicions. Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri studied itching in mice.
Alford noted they discovered that “scratching causes the brain to release your ‘happy hormone’ serotonin, which actually makes the itch worse.” While the researchers have yet to study humans, they believe the same “scratch cycle” occurs in people.
Earlier research reveals that scratching may soothe an itch by creating a tiny amount of pain. Alford confirms this adding: “This causes nerve cells, or neurons, in the spinal cord to transmit pain signals to the brain rather than itch signals”. Unfortunately, it will itch again because this provides only temporary relief.
Furthermore, senior investigator Zhou-Feng Chen stated: “Scratching can relieve itch by creating minor pain. But when the body responds to pain signals, that response actually can make itching worse.”
Alford concludes: “Chen goes on to explain that while serotonin helps alleviate pain in the brain, it also eventually spreads to the spinal cord. From there, it moves from pain-sensing neurons to neurons that influence itch intensity, making itching worse.”
Why does something itch more after you scratch it? Now you know.
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