I was carrying a can of very cold liquid, had something heavy in my other hand so couldn't switch hands. After a few minutes, I started to feel very intense pain. I was very surprised. cold is just atoms moving slower. This makes more sense if you think about how heat, or burns can cause pain. But heat can cook tissue and disable it, it makes sense it would hurt.

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    $\begingroup$ What about frostbite? Did you read anything about injuries from the cold? What can you add to your question so that it isn't so broad? $\endgroup$ Feb 10 '15 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ also read about nociception. Extreme cold can activate pain pathways $\endgroup$
    Feb 10 '15 at 5:25

I think your getting confused. Your assuming that it's actually the heat or cold that creates the feelings of pain.

I was very surprised. cold is just atoms moving slower.

Pain is a warning mechanism, stop doing that or you'll hurt yourself. It is not caused by the atoms in your nerves moving faster or slower in response to heat. Your nerves are triggered by a stimulus that could cause harm to your body and react by passing a pain signal to your nervous system. The heat (or lack of it) does not transmit up your nerves.

  • $\begingroup$ You could emphasise that its the lack of heat that causes pain. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Feb 10 '15 at 15:14

One mechanism through which low temperatures cause pain is through vasoconstriction.

Cold environment causes constriction of blood vessels in the periphery. This will cause decreased blood flow and the muscles will cramp due to lack of oxygen. The cramping is due to the accumulation of lactic acid (due to activation of anaerobic pathways of metabolism) and carbon dioxide. Both these chemicals will lower the pH which cause pain.


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