The science behind why getting kicked in the balls hurts so much

The high pitch groan, the grabbing of the crotch and a staggered drop to the floor. All tell tale signs of a man having been kicked in his special place. A pain apparently so bad that it justifies a grown man squealing like a prepubescent chorister. Now I don’t have testicles myself, being a woman and all that, so I have to take your word for it men, that this really does hurt that badly. Because I’m all about answering life’s important questions, I have looked into the science behind why being hit below the belt really is so painful.

Testicles are really exposed:

Most parts of our body are protected by some muscle, bone or cartilage, but your balls aren’t quite so lucky. This leaves them in a really vulnerable position so any physical impact on them will really hurt with no muscles etc to soften the blow – unlucky lads.

Testicles are covered in nociceptors:

A nociceptor is a type of nerve that reacts specifically to pain, and they only send signals once a certain pain threshold is reached. Because the testicles are absolutely covered in these, it makes them super sensitive to pain.

Here’s how it works: your balls get hit, the many nociceptors are activated and send loads of pain signals to the brain, the brain then responds by causing the release of a substance which makes us feel a physical pain, which you very quickly react to.

Men can often get headaches when hit in the special place too, this is because the brain also releases endorphins in response to the pain, which depletes some of the oxygen available in the brain – as if you didn’t have enough to deal with?  

Testicles are connected to nerves in internal organs:

Men will know all too well that when kicked downstairs the pain spreads all across the abdomen. This is because testicles are linked to lots of nerves in the stomach. Balls also link up with the vagus nerve, which connects to the part of the brain that controls vomiting. This not only explains the pain but the other symptoms that make men a total mess in this situation, like nausea.

What hurts more – being kicked in the balls or giving birth?

This really is one of the biggest debates in life. Until recent years nobody thought anyone could ever experience both, so this debate has been left unanswered. However, fabulous work in pain simulation is allowing us to have a bit more of an insight.

These wives managed to persuade their husbands to experience the pain of muscular contractions in labour:

It would be interesting to hear what these men thought was more painful, and I think I might be able to hazard a guess watching their reactions here. Maybe if somebody developed a simulator for the pain of being kicked in the balls for women to try then we could really settle this debate once and for all, (can’t say I will be volunteering for that one though).

Till next time,




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