By Ryan Morrison For Mailonline
Published: 18:00 BST, 7 September 2020 | Updated: 18:00 BST, 7 September 2020
Rubbing an itch instead of scratching it can ease the irritation more quickly as it activates a soothing pathway from the spinal cord, researchers claim.
Scientists from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine investigated the neural pathways behind forms of 'itch relief' including rubbing and scratching.
People should stop scratching and start rubbing skin in order to activate an anti-itch 'pathway' in the spinal cord that calms the irritating sensation, the team said.
Stroking or rubbing to relieve an itch can also reduce the risk of damaging the skin, especially in sensitive areas like the eyes, according to the Miami researchers.
Stroking, or rubbing an itch starts a cascade of events inside the body including firing off neurons in the spinal cord that ease the irritation and sooth the skin.
Stroking or rubbing to relieve an itch can also reduce the risk of damaging the skin, especially in sensitive areas like the eyes, according to the Miami researchers
As part of the study, researchers triggered the need to itch in a mouse and then monitored neurons as they relieved that itch with a stroke.
The team from the University of Miami recorded the electrical response from dorsal horn neurons in the spinal cord while they stroked the animals' paws.
Dorsal horns sit at the back of the spinal cord and make up the central grey matter that form two arm shapes and are linked to both touch and itch.
The neurons fired more often as the mice were stroked and less often after the stroking ended, the researchers said.
The increase corresponds to the added touch, not increased itchiness, while the decrease corresponds to itch relief, according to the study authors.