What Causes Ticklish Feet and Why Some People Are More Sensitive Than Others

Health Overdosed

More than 8,000 nerve endings, called Meissner’s corpuscles, present in each foot. Scientists consider these nerve endings to be a kind of evolutionary defense mechanism.

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We all have certain parts of our bodies that are extremely sensitive and ticklish. This could be under the armpits, on the neck, around the ribs…but there’s no debating the fact that almost everyone does experience tickling feet.

Sensitive to Ticklish Feet

The majority of people are unaware of the reason for feet being hypersensitive to tickling. Even though the skin on the feet is stronger and comparatively more wear-resistant than most other places on the body, it can’t bear the pleasurable or painful sensation of tickling.

So, why are the soles of your feet so ticklish? You can lay the blame on 8,000 nerve endings, called Meissner’s corpuscles[1], present in each foot. Scientists consider these nerve endings to be a kind of evolutionary defense mechanism.

Protective Mechanism

Similar to all nerves, these nerve endings are responsible for alerting us about something wrong (pain receptors); offering protection from possible injuries or potentially harmful insects or reptiles moving on the ground.

Furthermore, these nerve endings aid the feet in better understanding the environment (touch receptors). This combination of both touch and pain receptors is the reason for the mixed sensation of discomfort and pleasure linked with feet stimulation being felt as feet tickling.

Tickling theorists claim that there are two kinds of tickle, and whether you end up laughing or not is linked to the tickle type.

Ticklish Feet Reactions

Knismesis

This originated from the Greek word “knismos” which means “itching”. This type does not induce laughter; it’s a light tickling sensation that is pleasurable for some people and irritating, resulting in itching, for others. This type of tickling can be self-induced.

Moreover, knismesis[2] is a disturbing kind of tickle that can result from an insect buzzing across your feet, or any other light touch, like walking barefoot on sand, making your feet feel itchy or tingly.

Gargalesis

This is from the Greek word “gargalizein” which means “to tickle”. This type generates sensations of both pleasure and pain connected with heavy tickling; contributing to outbursts of laughter together with discomfort.

This tickling type may be deduced by the brain as pain; the reason why the tickler is often told to stop. It is not possible to tickle yourself and generate a gargalesis[3] response. Reactions from being tickled are normally involuntary and uncontrollable.

Note:

Hypergargalesthesia is the condition of a person having extremely ticklish feet.

The Hypothalamus

This is the part of the brain responsible for controlling emotional responses. Tickling in both knismesis and gargalesis stimulates the hypothalamus. It controls your reaction to painful things.

So if you have bouts of laughter, pain, or discomfort when experiencing foot tickling, it may be due to an involuntary (autonomic) response brought about by the hypothalamus.

Is Gargalesis Good for Health?

Despite many people abhorring the fact of having ticklish feet, they are an indication of good health. Yes, sensitive feet are a good thing, it means your nerves are in perfect order and fully capable of protecting you and your feet from injury.

Non-ticklish feet could very well point to negative signs about a person’s nerve receptors. Insensitive feet can indicate sicknesses like diabetes, arthritis, mellitus, neuropathy, thyroid issues, or vitamin depletion.

So, if there is a fall in your ability to feeling ticklish, then a visit to your doctor would be well advised.

Why Some People are More Ticklish Than Others

Scientists are not entirely clear on what makes some people’s feet tickle more than others; tickle reactions differ between individuals. However, there are indications that the cause may be genetic as everyone’s feet are different undergoing varying levels of tickling sensations.

Bottom Line

Some people can have very ticklish feet owing to feet being a sensitive area of the human body.

Note:

What causes tickling isn’t fully known but is generally considered to be an involuntary response generated by stimulation of the hypothalamus.

Ticklish feet indicate good health as non-ticklish feet could signify improper working of a person’s nerve receptors. Regardless of achieving this good health sign at the cost of being vulnerable to uncontrolled giggling.

[1] “Histology, Meissner Corpuscle” by NCBI.

[2] Samuel T Selden in “Tickle” by JAAD.

[3] Read more at PUBMED.

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