When scientist Michael Smith was stung by a wayward bee that managed to fly up his shorts and sting him on the scrotum, he subsequently had a painful yet Eureka moment – why not explore how pain affects humans?
With this though in mind, inspire of the pain of being stung by a bee, he went ahead and forced these insects to sting him all over his body for over five weeks.
Michael, a postgraduate at Cornell University in New York, has had previous conversations with colleagues in the past in terms of body pain and where it would hurt the most. Incidentally, Michael is currently studying bee behavior and that even before, he has speculated on whether it would hurt as much to be stung in the testicles. He got his answer when by chance, he did get stung in his scrotum and his speculation was answered – that it didn’t really hurt as much as he thought it would.
And with this new revelation, he went ahead and made himself a test subject in order to understand more the human body’s pain barrier. Being a former bee-keeping student at United World College of the Atlantic near Cardiff, Michael knew how to handle bees properly. He took agitated bees in forceps and applied them to 25 different areas of his body, letting them sting each part at least three times, rating each body part pain from zero to ten.
After he went through a “stinging” episode in the name of science, Michael revealed a rather surprising fact: It is more painful to be stung in the nose compared to being stung on the penis.
He further explains that there is no crossing of wires of pleasure and pain when stung on the penis, it is definitely painful. But getting stung on the nose is a whole painful body experience as you end up sneezing and wheezing with snot dribbling out. Getting stung on the nose makes your whole body react in an electric and pulsating way. He originally thought of having his eyes stung, but thought against it, afraid that he might lose his sense of sight.
His study results may not have long-term significance, but then the results are definitely unexpected and thought provoking, as published by scientific journal PeerJ.
As it turns out, even if a body part is sensitive to the touch, it does not entirely mean that it will be the worst part to feel pain at. Michael do admits that his testicles were the fourth worst body part to be stung with a pain rating of 7.0, but that it was also equally as painful as being stung in the palm and the cheek.
And even if he rated the pain on his penis as 7.3, slightly higher than that of his testicles, his pain rating for his nostril is a whopping 9.0 and his upper lip as 8.7. The least painful areas were his upper arms, middle toes and head with a pain rating of only 2.3.
Michael believes that the pain map he developed through his study can be that of significance when it comes to other types of hurt and injury. He believes that that it can be applicable for understanding other types of pain.
He later says that we actually have a poor understanding of pain and how we perceive it, as based on his studies, he notes that even if a certain part of the body seems sensitive to the touch it doesn’t entirely mean that it will also be as sensitive to pain.