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

What Makes Feet Ticklish?

Tickling is a common sensation experienced by many people, but not all. There are several factors which may contribute to tickle:

1) The skin on your feet contains nerves called nociceptors.

Nerve endings in the feet send signals to the brain when touched or even just near them (see diagram). These nerve endings are sensitive to touch, temperature changes, pressure and friction. When these nerves are stimulated they cause the body to release chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. Endorphins increase feelings of well being and happiness while serotonin helps regulate moods.

2) Your feet contain special glands called arachnoid sheaths which secrete substances that make your feet feel cold or hot.

They produce sweat, coolness or heat depending on what is needed at any given time. Sweat from the arachnoid sheath secretions cools your feet and keeps them feeling comfortable. Heat produced by the sweat causes the arachnoid sheath to produce chemicals such as acetylcholine which help transmit nerve impulses to other parts of your body.

3) Certain foods have chemical compounds similar to those found in your feet.

For example, the chemical compound menthol is found in things like peppermint and is used as an anesthetic. When your feet come into contact with something containing menthol, the nerve endings in your feet send a message to the brain that you are being tickled.

4) Obesity or weight that presses on the nerves in your feet can also cause tickle sensations.

When your feet are obese they may contain deposits of fat or other substances which may interfere with nerve functions. This is known as foot drop and causes the foot to drag due to paralysis of muscles in the feet. It is also one reason why people with obesity may have ticklish feet.

Why Some People Are More Sensitive Than Others?

There are many factors which contribute to foot sensitivity. One of the primary factors is that you may have a greater density of nerve endings in your feet than others. This means that you are more likely to feel things such as pain, heat and cold at a greater intensity than other people. Such people are said to be more sensitive to pain. Other factors which may contribute to ticklishness include:

1) Age – Children and older people report higher incidence of being ticklish than teenagers and young adults.

2) Gender – Men and women are equally ticklish, but women report higher levels of sensitivity than men.

3) Heredity – Some people are just born more ticklish than others.

If someone in your family is known to be very ticklish, there is a greater chance that you will also be sensitive to being tickled.

4) Psychological state of mind – This is probably the most important factor that influences whether you are ticklish or not.

If you are feeling happy and relaxed, you will be less ticklish than when you are feeling depressed or angry.

How To Stop Yourself From Being Ticklish?

There is no way of preventing yourself from feeling ticklish. You will always be able to feel ticklish no matter how hard you try. However, there are certain techniques that one can use to reduce or eliminate the chance of being tickled.

Sources & references used in this article:

The mystery of ticklish laughter by CR Harris – American Scientist, 1999 – search.proquest.com

The psychology of tickling, laughing, and the comic by GS Hall, A Alliń – The American Journal of Psychology, 1897 – JSTOR

Tickle by ST Selden – Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2004 – Elsevier

Hyper-responsivity to touch and vestibular stimuli as a predictor of positive response to sensory integration procedures by autistic children by AJ Ayres, LS Tickle – American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 1980 – ajot.aota.org

The foetus as a personality by AW Liley – Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 1972 – journals.sagepub.com

Principles of development by L Wolpert, C Tickle, AM Arias – 2015 – books.google.com

Neural mechanisms involved in itch,“itchy skin,” and tickle sensations by DT Graham, H Goodell, HG Wolff – The Journal of clinical …, 1951 – Am Soc Clin Investig