So THAT's Why You Bite Your Hand When It's Itchy

A doctor weighs in on the phenomenon.
Xinhua News Agency via Getty Images

Give me a deep, nasty hand itch, and my thumb starts looking like a forbidden drumstick. I feel a twinge in my lower palm, and (given adequate distance from anyone I’d ever hope to respect me), I begin to chew. I don’t know why. I don’t do this with any other body part.

But unhinged as my mid-itch thought process might seem, it looks like I’m not alone.

Recently, Dr. Karan Raj (a doctor who shares his medical knowledge on TikTok) posted a video on the topic.“If you’ve ever felt like biting into your itchy hand, this is because of a software glitch in your nervous system,” he begins the video.

Not all itches are created equal

If you think that the deep, almost unbearable itches you sometimes get in your palm are more intense than those in other parts of your body, you’re probably right.

“The deep, unscratchable itch you feel in your hand is probably the result of a random nerve glitch,” Dr. Raj explains. And it can often feel stronger, and last longer, than a superficial itch, which is usually caused by surface irritation.

“When an itch originates in the deeper layers of the skin or below the surface, a simple scratch might not be enough,” the doctor continued. “The deep itch stimulates a wider range of sensory nerves and receptors, and that increased stimulation leads you to have a stronger urge to alleviate the itch by increasing the pressure ― by biting.”

OK, but ― why?

Anyone who’s ever chowed down on a toffee will know how powerful the human bite can be ― it packs a much bigger punch than a simple scratch.

The increased pressure applied by biting the itchy area provides counter-irritation,” Dr. Raj says. In other words, the pain caused when you bite down on your hand overrides the discomfort of the itch, because your brain prioritises what it believes to be the bigger threat.

Basically, you’re running new code and deleting the old one,” Dr. Raj says. “When you bite down on an itch, you’re redirecting your attention and sensory focus to that specific area.”

“Biting your itchy hand is your body’s best attempt at sorting out a glitchy nervous system,” Dr. Raj adds. So, you know ― bon appetit.

You can watch the entire Tiktok here:


The bite itch @Géneral Backup

♬ original sound - Dr Karan Raj