Why Does Cutting Our Nails Not Hurt?

The nails, present on the dorsal surfaces of the distal parts of fingers and toes are flattened, elastic structures. The proximal part of the nail, which overlapped by the nail fold (fold of skin) is called nail root. The part that is not covered by the nail fold is called body of the nail.

Beneath the nail lies the nail bed. The nail bed has two parts, the part under the root, which is called germinal matrix (concerned with the growth of the nail) and the part below the body of the nail is called sterile matrix.

The nail is analogous to the stratum cornium of thick skin, which is the outer most structure of the epidermis. It consists of flattened dead squames, which are the remnants of cells, which are filled with keratin. After gliding over the nail bed, the extreme distal end of the nail projects out.

When this projected portion is cut we cannot feel pain, since we are cutting a dead mass of hard squames. But when we cut the nail part, which is over the nail bed we feel the pain since the dermis in this region is supplied with rich nerve endings.

Published in The Hindu on June 06, 2002.