Why do my goosebumps hurt?

According to Boyer, “the muscle tension that builds up in your chest causes pressure, and when you sneeze and the muscles relax, it releases pressure. Anytime you release pressure, it feels good.”

She said it’s like the high you get after an intense workout, but there’s also a chemical reaction that happens post-sneeze.

“There’s also some evidence that endorphins are released, which causes your body to feel good,” she said.

Endorphins stimulate the brain’s pleasure center, and because they come in a quick burst, so does the pleasure.

“Once a sneeze starts, you can’t stop it because it’s a reflex. So, the stimulation starts, sends a signal to the brain that there’s something irritating inside the nose,” Boyer said.

The signaling takes place in the autonomous nervous system, and according to Boyer, those nerves run throughout the body.

Two British researchers published in a medical journal arguing that there are cases of someone having an orgasm during sex, that triggers a bout of sneezing.

The theory is that the autonomous nervous system is somewhat mysterious, and sometimes the signals get sent to the wrong place.

Boyer said there’s not much serious medical research on the phenomenon. But she said there’s no doubt that sneezing does feel good.

“It’s a reflex response to protect you more than anything,” she said.

Top 5 Causes of Chills

1. Coldness

Sometimes, experiencing chills is simply due to being cold. If you feel like you’re getting the chills (shaking, teeth chattering, goosebumps, etc.), check the temperature gauge on your thermostat. If you experience them when you’re outside in chilly weather, try to get warm before you start to experience more pronounced and dangerous issues.

2. Physical Exhaustion

If you’ve just run a marathon or done something physically extreme, there is a chance you might experience chills as a result. When the body is very tired, it may start to tremble. If you have been exercising outside in the heat or cold, your shaking may be more pronounced.

3. Illness

A cold, fever, or flu can cause a person to experience chills. If your nose is running, you are sneezing a lot, and you feel warm to the touch, your chills are likely caused by an illness of some kind. You should rest and drink plenty of fluids to aid in recovery. You should consult your doctor if your symptoms increase or worsen over time.

4. Medications

Chills are common side effects of many different medications. This symptom can be more prevalent at the start of taking a specific prescription and can lessen over time as your body becomes used to it. Talk to your doctor if your chills do not subside.

5. Emotions

Are your emotions running high? You can experience chills as the result of a very emotional state, as adrenaline rushes through your body. Take a deep breath to clear your head, and think about whether you feel anxious or overly excited. Similarly, if you are recovering from a traumatic experience, your body may produce chills or uncontrollable shaking as you emerge from your initial shock.

Possible Health Conditions Related to Chills

1. Infections

Chills are a possible side effect of an infection, either caused by viruses or bacteria. For example, the flu is caused by the influenza virus, and this can lead to chills. A person who has a mild infection causing chills, runny nose, coughing, and sneezing might be able to stay in bed and get well, but sometimes, infections worsen and require a doctor’s treatment. In some cases, a less common kind of infection can lead to chills as well, so consider the other symptoms you’re experiencing in order to narrow down the likely causes.

2. Hypothyroidism

This is a disorder that occurs when your thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones for your body. People with hypothyroidism often have an increased sensitivity to cold, so they have more trouble in colder areas and are more likely to experience chills. Other symptoms of this disorder include a slow pulse, weight gain, memory and concentration problems, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Your doctor can determine whether you have hypothyroidism and whether you need medication to manage it.

3. Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is also known as low blood glucose. People who have diabetes can experience it when their blood sugar becomes low, but you can also be hypoglycemic without being diabetic. When you have hypoglycemia, you can shake and shiver, which looks similar to having chills. Other signs are seizures, blurry vision, sweating, heart palpitations, confusion, and tingling of the mouth.

4. Malnutrition

If you become dangerously malnourished, you could experience chills because your body can’t function the way it should — it can’t keep you warm. In addition, you will not have the nutrients you need to go through everyday life, which could also lead to shaking and shivering.

Malnutrition is a common result of anorexia or another eating disorder that occurs when a person starves themselves deliberately. Other signs of malnutrition include pale skin, rashes on the skin, dizziness, fatigue, weakness, tingling of the joints, and faintness. Women with malnutrition do not have periods because the body no longer has the capability to nourish a potential fetus. Malnutrition is a serious problem that requires immediate treatment.

5. Hypothermia

In cold weather, you can experience hypothermia, which can cause your body to shiver and shake. Bodies that are below 95 degrees are too cold and need immediate medical treatment. The people most at risk of experiencing hypothermia while indoors are babies, who can get too cold and are not able to verbalize, and the elderly, who are more susceptible to the cold.

6. Heat Exhaustion

Chills can be an indicator of the opposite problem as well. A person who gets too hot can develop heat exhaustion, usually after several days of being in a temperature warmer than they can physically handle. Sweating and rapid breathing are strong signs of heat exhaustion. If a person gets too hot, they can experience heatstroke, which is characterized by lack of sweat, a fast pulse, nausea, confusion, and dizziness. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that requires help immediately, so if an individual is sweaty and shaky from being in the heat, try to get them inside or somewhere cool before the condition worsens.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Your Chills

  • How long have you been experiencing chills?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • Have you been working out or straining yourself physically lately?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • Are you eating enough?
  • Have you had the flu, a cold, or another kind of illness or infection recently?

Chills May Also be Known as

  • Goosebumps
  • Shaking
  • Shivering
  • Rigors


But this is not how the human nervous system usually works. Scientists think goose bumps are a reflex left over from our hairy ancestors, whose fur would fluff up for warmth or for scaring off enemies. On relatively hairless humans, goose bumps appear when tiny muscles pull on the hair follicle. Those muscles are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, which also manages other involuntary actions like heartbeats, pupil dilation, and wave-like contractions in the digestive system called peristalsis. Inducing goose bumps at will, says Heathers, is “like saying you can suddenly change peristalsis action or stop your heart.”

Heathers—who, like most people, can’t control goose bumps—first became intrigued by the phenomenon by reading old case studies. “I have a particular fondness for old journals and forgotten, abandoned articles,” he says. It was in one of these old dives into old journals that he came across a 1938 case study in which scientists observed a middle-aged man controlling goose bumps. He kept digging. Another case study popped up, this time about a 27-year-old student from 1902. “He can produce the condition of ‘goose-flesh’ at will in from two to 10 seconds from the instant of volition,” wrote the physiologist who examined him, “and can cause it to disappear in a like time.” In a more recent article from 2010, Austrian and German scientists actually filmed a 35-year-old man who could control his goose bumps.

If this was real, Heathers wondered, could there be more people out there?

He began to search on Google—following the maxim that if something is real, then it must be documented online. Indeed, he came across forums discussing the phenomenon and videos deep in the long tail of YouTube. He devised a survey to advertise on forums and psychology Facebook groups, and his team eventually heard from 32 people who claimed to have voluntary control of their goose bump. The survey was long and complicated, Heathers says, so he didn’t think people would take it just to mess with him.

The survey revealed that not all goose-bump powers are created equal. Some people said they needed to actually induce an emotional reaction. One participant, Heathers noted, said he actually needed to think about his girlfriend getting murdered to give himself goose bumps.

For others, getting goose bumps requires concentration but no particular emotional reaction. “I always have to close my eyes. I try to do it without closing my eyes and I can’t,” said Eliza Bacon, a biologist in Southern California who contacted Heathers after reading a short article about his research. She experiences it as a tingling sensation that begins at the back of her head and spreads through her scalp and body.

For people like Palejko, inducing goose bumps is no more difficult than moving an arm. He did note one difference, though: It takes time for his goose bumps to recharge. “I can do it again,” he said after showing me his goose bumps over Skype, “but it’s just like losing power and I have to wait around 10 minutes.”

George A.Bubenik, a physiologist and professor of zoology at the University of Guelph in Ontario, explains.

Imagine swimming in a lake on a hot summer day. The water is quite warm, but the wind is strong and the moment you leave the water you feel chilly and get “goosebumps.” So you change clothes and move inside to warm up. You make a nice cup of tea, get under a blanket and switch on the radio. Suddenly, you hear a song from a long time ago, the song your grandmother used to sing to you when you were a child. Again, you feel a chill on your back and again, you get goosebumps. Why do such seemingly unrelated events elicit the same body reaction? The reason for this is the physiology of emotions.

Goosebumps are a physiological phenomenon inherited from our animal ancestors, which was useful to them but are not of much help to us. Goosebumps are tiny elevations of the skin that resemble the skin of poultry after the feathers have been plucked. (Therefore we could as well call them “turkeybumps” or “duckbumps.”) These bumps are caused by a contraction of miniature muscles that are attached to each hair. Each contracting muscle creates a shallow depression on the skin surface, which causes the surrounding area to protrude. The contraction also causes the hair to stand up whenever the body feels cold. In animals with a thick hair coat this rising of hair expands the layer of air that serves as insulation. The thicker the hair layer, the more heat is retained. In people this reaction is useless because we do not have a hair coat, but goosebumps persist nevertheless.

In addition to cold, the hair will also stand up in many animals when they feel threatened–in a cat being attacked by a dog, for example. The elevated hair, together with the arched back and the sideward position the animal often assumes, makes the cat appear bigger in an attempt to make the dog back off. People also tend to experience goosebumps during emotional situations, such as walking down the aisle during their wedding, standing on a podium and listening to a national anthem after winning in sports, or even just watching horror movies on television. Quite often a person may get goosebumps many years after a significant event, just by thinking about the emotions she once experienced, perhaps while listening to the romantic song to which she danced many years ago with the love of her life.

The reason for all these responses is the subconscious release of a stress hormone called adrenaline. Adrenaline, which in humans is produced in two small beanlike glands that sit atop the kidneys, not only causes the contraction of skin muscles but also influences many other body reactions. In animals, this hormone is released when the animal is cold or facing a stressful situation, preparing the animal for flight-or-fight reaction. In humans, adrenaline is often released when we feel cold or afraid, but also if we are under stress and feel strong emotions, such as anger or excitement. Other signs of adrenaline release include tears, sweaty palms, trembling hands, an increase in blood pressure, a racing heart or the feeling of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach.

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