What is an itch and why we want to scratch ourselves?

The sensation of an itch is one we’re all familiar with.  While some itchiness has an obvious cause, such as a mosquito bite, chickenpox, eczema, or an allergy, in many cases there is no particular reason for the itch.  Scientists are not completely clear about why our bodies react the way they do and make the urge to scratch ourselves absolutely irresistible.

Itching (or pruritus, the correct medical term) can be a pretty unpleasant feeling, and the sensation can be all-consuming until relief is administered.  Occasional mild to moderate itching is very common, and, in some cases, can be severe. Any area of the body can be affected by itching.  However some areas may experience a more generalized all-over itch, or the itch may be localized in one particular part of the body, for example, the back.

Itchiness is, without doubt, an extremely irritating phenomenon, but it did have a key purpose to play in our evolution. Our ancestors will have learned pretty quickly to avoid biting insects or poison ivy once they realized the unpleasant effects after encountering such hazards.

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However, putting aside cases where there is a clear case of cause and effect, it is undeniable that countless people all over the world suffer from a chronic itch, the cause of which is undetermined and this can potentially impact their quality of life.  Itchiness by its very nature simply cannot be ignored and even mild cases can be very distracting and debilitating. Trying to find a solution to stop the itches can be an endless task.

The physiological process that causes us to itch is the result of a well-orchestrated system comprising of circuits, cells and molecules that work together to pass messages from the skin to the brain.  In the same way, lightning-fast messages travel along the same pathway that enables us to feel temperature, pain or touch.  However, when the message received by our brain is ‘an itch’ command and there is no obvious cause, it can be tricky to know exactly how to react. The go-to solution offered by a doctor will often be an antihistamine, to calm any allergic inflammation.  As many itches are not triggered by an allergy, this can leave the sufferer in limbo, merrily itching away unsure how to stop the irritation and potentially inflicting damage to the outside layers of the skin.

The holy grail of itches – an itchy back that desperately needs scratching – has traditionally meant an appeal to our nearest and dearest to 'please' help us out. If no one is available (or willing!) to assist, many of us have to contort ourselves into a succession of precarious but potentially dangerous poses as we desperately flail about trying to reach that elusive itch that.  The itch, of course, mysteriously moves as soon as we think we’ve got it covered.

The pure bliss of successfully reaching and then subduing an itch is hard to beat. A good quality backscratcher is such an essential piece of kit. Investing in a BackBliss backscratcher means that you can be utterly certain of one thing – the scratch will always triumph over the itch.