Why You Want To Bite Your Palm When Your Hand Itches

An itch anywhere in the body isn't a pleasant feeling. If you've ever been bitten by a mosquito or developed an itch on your back you just can't reach, you know what we're talking about. 

But when your palms itch, it's a whole other story. Oftentimes, it can feel so frustrating that you actually feel the urge to bite your hand. Yes, bite it. For most of us, this may even be a knee-jerk reaction that we won't remember afterward. Thanks to social media and its snippets of advice from health professionals, we have an answer for why we do something so weird. 

According to a Los Angeles-based emergency medicine physician who goes by the name Life Of A Doctor on TikTok, biting your palm in an attempt to relieve your itch might have to do with your desire to get deeper into the itch. "Your skin actually varies in thickness. For example, the skin on your eyelids is very thin while the skin on your palms is very thick. So when you go to scratch your palms, you think you're not getting deep enough. So then you start biting it because that creates more pressure." Interestingly, this isn't the only explanation for this bizarre habit. 

It could also be about adding 'counter-irritation' to your palm

Remember how when you have a splitting headache and also stub your toe at the same time, for a few moments, you forget the headache because of the overriding new hurt from having knocked your foot against the leg of the bed? (Ouch.) The same might be true for when you bite your palm to relieve an itch. 

According to NHS surgeon and book author Dr. Karan Raj, "The increased pressure applied by biting the itchy area provides counter-irritation. By causing mild discomfort or pain in the same general area of the itch, the brain prioritizes this new pain over the itchy sensation. That provides a temporary relief." The doctor compares this to "running a new code by deleting the old one." 

"When you bite down on an itch, you're redirecting your attention and sensory focus to that specific area and this localized attention temporarily distracts you from the itch, making it feel less bothersome," shared Raj. Who knew something as seemingly insignificant and involuntary as biting an itchy palm could have multiple explanations? But wait, there's more. 

The nature of the itch could also be a reason

Calling it a "software error in the nervous system," Dr. Karan Raj adds that the need to bite down on your palm might also have to do with the nature (and intensity) of the itch itself. 

Often, you might feel like you're itching inside your body, a lot deeper than the surface-level irritation of a regular itch. "The deep unscratchable itch you feel in your hand is usually the result of a random nerve glitch. It can often feel more intense and persistent than a superficial itch, which is often caused by a physical irritation," explained the NHS surgeon. Thus, the sheer desire to relieve an itch that's so deep and more pronounced may cause you to bite your palm. "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."

So the next time you embarrass yourself at the dinner table by going for your hand instead of your food with your teeth, tell yourself that there's a lot going on under the surface than meets the eye. There's no reason to feel bad about it. That being said, itchy palms can also be caused by health conditions like eczema, contact dermatitis, diabetes, cirrhosis, and nerve damage, per Medical News Today. Seek the advice of a health professional if you suspect it might be related to any of these.