Natural and Organic Skin Care

Keep Kissin’ Mama! It Really Does Take the Hurt Away!

mama booboo kissMy kiddos are getting older, but there are still times when they want their mama to kiss or rub their boo-boos. Recently I’ve wondered to myself when they’ll stop asking for this, and also if they still actually believe that the kisses will make the hurt go away. My belief in the power of kisses to ease the hurts of childhood was simply that it was a placebo effect that worked because young children truly believe in the magic power of their mamas to make everything all better.

To my great pleasure however, I recently learned that I was totally wrong, and that the ability of those kisses to make things better is actually a thing! I was in an Anatomy and Physiology class and the topic was pain. We were learning about all of the things that cause pain, along with the hows and whys. At the most basic level, something happens or changes on or within your body that triggers a nerve to send a signal to the brain saying “hey, this isn’t good, please make a change”. The brain responds with pain as a way to get your attention to make the necessary change – i.e. removing your hand from a hot surface, correcting your posture, resting a foot, etc.

Getting a little bit more detailed, there are two different kinds of nerves or pathways that send these signals based upon the information received. Some information needs to be acted upon fast, like right now, as in my hand is touching a hot plate. Because of this, we need nerves that are able to send this information super fast. The ones that do so are called A-delta fibers; these are nerves that are wrapped in a myelin sheath that allows information to speed along on it – think about sliding on a slip and slide with and without water. The wet slip and slide lets you zoom across the yard far and fast because it is slick from being coated in water, whereas sliding on a dry slip and slide you’d only get so far because there wasn’t anything there to speed you along. The myelin of the A-delta fibers are like the water on the slip and slide and allow information to speed to the brain at a rate of between 5 to 30 meters/second! The pain sensation you receive from these guys is sharp, bright pain that says do something NOW! The other type of nerve or pathway, are the C fibers. These nerves are not wrapped in myelin, or are only slightly mylenated, which causes the information to travel to the brain quite a bit slower, 0.5 to 2.0 meters/second. The C fibers are responsible for sending the signal of dull, aching pain that doesn’t require a fast action – the kind that remains after you’ve pulled your hand off the plate, or after you’ve fallen down and scraped your knee.

Ok, so, are you wondering where in this picture a mamas kiss fits in? Well, the A-delta fibers are also responsible for carrying information about touch in general. This means that you can rub or kiss an area where there was recently an injury and the A-delta fibers will take this information and fast track it to the brain, saying “Oh, this is a gentle touch and it feels good”. The C fibers are still sending that low, dull pain message but because they move slower and because there is only so much information that can travel to the brain at once, by kissing and rubbing that bump or bruise, you’re basically flooding the gates with more pleasant information which creates a traffic jam if you will that causes the hurt message to get held up, and voila! It doesn’t hurt so much anymore! This is called the Gate Control Theory of Pain and is one of so many example of how the things we do without thinking or knowing exactly why actually do in fact have a purpose behind them!

pain signal speeds






So go ahead and keep on kissing those boo-boos Mama!  And know that they aren’t simply a comfort for little ones, but for people of all ages 🙂


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