Home BiologyThe Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
BiologyBy Joe Burgett -

Many will tell you that they can handle pain pretty well. This may or may not be true, as most people do not tend to experience pain often enough to claim they have a very high pain threshold. Yes, there are some who do handle it well. Yet those people tend to often challenge themselves. However, even they might not be able to handle the most painful experiences that a human can actually go through. While pain can be different for everyone, those who do tend to handle pain best are likely those with medical conditions that result in pain daily.

For example, someone with fibromyalgia has light to severe pain every single day. For years, doctors thought people with this condition were faking pain. Yet they actually have a nerve disorder, something you cannot see on a scan. Due to this, they had to be able to handle sometimes severe pain each day. However, there are other conditions far worse. On this list, you will see some of those pop up along with real torture techniques used throughout history. On top of that, we will discuss several other painful experiences that might surprise you. That said, let’s get started!

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Migraine

Migraine used to be confused for a regular headache. People centuries ago used to assume that trepanning, or drilling/cutting a hole into a person’s skull, could relieve this. After all, they assumed the pressure feeling that builds up from some migraines could be removed the same way you let air out of a balloon. Shockingly, this did not solve the issue. When a migraine occurs, it can come in numerous different ways. Usually, it centers around one part of the head and might throb or pulsate.

While technically a headache, it operates very differently due to centering around one area. The pain might also be incredibly severe, to the point where one might be hospitalized. This alone makes it one of the most painful experiences. However, on some occasions, migraines could come in clusters. This would form numerous migraines one after the other, potentially in the same area or multiple different areas of the head. Those are considered the “most” painful headaches/migraine you could experience.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a very serious illness that can actually kill people. To be honest, it is not exactly tough to understand what appendicitis really is. It’s merely an inflammation of the appendix. However, it can come out of nowhere and it can be tough to know you have it. Most end up feeling like they have a stomach virus, but will soon experience abdominal pain that can reach intense levels. Treatment is needed immediately to prevent major issues. While you can take medication to help, the inflammation of an appendix has a root cause. If this is an infection, then antibiotics can be given to hopefully end the problem.

Yet sometimes antibiotics do not work and pain only continues to persist. If a parasite is causing the problem, then you can often take medication to kill the parasite or remove it. However, if there is a viral cause then you have to wait and see, only treating the symptoms. Thus, the idea that you must remove an appendix simply for appendicitis is misguided. This only happens if the appendix could potentially burst or if the pain continues even after the initial treatment. Treatment must be given immediately, as the risk of burst is present within 72 hours after the initial symptoms begin.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Second Degree Burns

Burns are pretty common among humans. Whether you accidentally touch a hot pan right out of the oven or if you stay out in the sun for too long. Usually, though, most people tend to only see first-degree burns. These only leave your skin red or pink, and healing takes very little time. However, second-degree burns are often considered the most painful. How is that when a third or fourth-degree burn is technically worse? Both the epidermis and second layer of skin will be burnt with this type of burn. You’ll likely see blisters, swelling, and potentially white or splotchy skin.

Scarring can even occur from these burns. However, unlike with third or fourth-degree burns, nerves are usually not affected. Therefore, your nerves remain at the spot of the burn and therefore allow you to feel the horrible pain. Third-degree burns kill those too, making them painful but not as bad as nerves are truly what give you pain sensations in this situation. They tend to hurt more at the time of injury where second degree hurts when you get it and for quite some time afterward.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Penile Fracture

We’re pretty sure most men will know about this, but it is pretty rare that they will ever experience it. While it could happen to any man, it is simply not common. Yet many women and likely some men might wonder, how does one fracture a penis? It is an understandable question. In spite of the nicknames or appearance, there is no bone in the human penis. Rather, a man might get “harder” simply due to blood flow to the area. This tends to only happen due to arousal, outside the teenage years. Most penile fractures take place during sexual activity. The stories of how they happen in these situations can be quite dramatic.

We could not possibly cover those here, but look them up. In any case, since there are no bones there, the male will not “break” anything. Rather, they rupture one or both areas responsible for erections: the corpora cavernosa and penile sheath. This rupture will cause one of the most painful experiences ever. Males will need to go to the ER where they will x-ray the area to determine severity. Often, men will just be given pain medication and the area will heal on its own. Yet this WILL leave a scar and long-term curvature. The worst cases will require surgery to repair, which tends to happen immediately.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Falling Into Acid

Falling into acid seems like it would be a pretty horrible situation. When this pops up, most people tend to think of The Joker falling into acid and coming out of it with his skin permanently whitened. While it is true that DC Comics used this as an early origin for the character, but things might not turn out this way. Acid is all around us, and we even have some of it inside of us right now. Our stomach acid is capable of melting pretty much anything. The reason for this is that the main part of the acid happens to be hydrochloric acid. Isolated from our stomach, this stuff can melt through metal.

Combine it with other digestive juices and there is a lot of horrible pain there. Yet not all acid will be dangerous enough to melt through us immediately. Thus, the pain scale for this will really differ so we’ll be going with a middle-ground version. That type of acid will begin to burn skin upon impact, then possibly enter your bloodstream and begin to affect your organs. Yet it is survivable for some if you’re in there for a short time. If you’re in there for a long time, it could melt through to your organs and bones. We feel this could be one of the most painful experiences that most would want to avoid.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS is a horrible condition to deal with. The condition usually develops among those who sustain an arm or leg injury. While the initial pain from your injury makes sense, CRPS only really becomes relevant if the pain remains even after things heal up. This might be acute and only last for a short time but for others, it can be chronic and last longer than six months. To be honest, there are actually two versions of CRPS. The version above is Type 2, which is caused by nerve damage. Meanwhile, Type 1 occurs without any nerve damage present.

Both are problematic but Type 1 is really tough to deal with because the lack of nerve damage complicates things. We can treat nerve damage issues. We cannot do much about pain remaining after something heals minus nerve issues. All of this is caused by autonomic dysfunction. Since our autonomic nervous system is often our most common reaction system, any dysfunction here can be problematic. It will then treat things similar to how autoimmune disorders work, thus causing your body to fight. Which then causes one of the most painful experiences, but this is luckily treatable.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via Toby Elliott]

Being Thrown Into Lava

Since no one has ever been interviewed after being thrown into lava, it is tough to give you an exact picture of the pain. Yet we can tell you the temperature of most lava at the moment it begins to flow from a volcano is roughly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or 700 to 1250 degrees Celcius. While 2,000 degrees seems to be pretty hot, this is not enough to melt things like iron, nickel, silicon, titanium, tungsten, and neither carbon nor stainless steel. This is critical because it means falling into lava is technically survivable. However, you might not want to live as it will cause one of the most painful experiences one could go through.

If you fell into lava with protection made of these metals, you could exit without anything more than a few burns. Yet unassisted by this, the lava would immediately begin to burn and stick to your skin. However, your skin will melt off just as quickly. This is only if you fall into it and get out fast. If you’re in the lava for more than 10 seconds, you could likely see skin falling off and bones exposed. The weird part is that human bone only melts at 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and up, so your skeleton would be perfectly frozen…or melted in time within the lava.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Stonefish Sting

There are seemingly endless amounts of stonefish. They live for a long time, and there are at least one species near every continent. You’ll likely come across them more in Australian waters. This happens to be the most venomous fish species in the world. Stonefish are known for their needle-like dorsal fins, which is what they use to impale potential prey or enemies. While stonefish tend to stay away from humans, we come across them accidentally.

Since stonefish often appear in coastal areas, they’ll sometimes get caught up in waves and land on rocks. This species can actually last out of water for up to 24 hours. Thus, you could easily miss a stonefish on the rocks and get stung. One could even step on one in the water accidentally too. The pain from this sting is immense and is known to last for several days as it works its way out of your body. Those stung by it claim this is one of the most painful experiences of their lives.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via New York School of Regional Anesthesia]

Postdural Puncture Headache

A Postdural Puncture Headache is hopefully not something many reading this will have ever dealt with. The pain from this is said to be immense. One might see “headache” and assume it is just a version of head pain, but that’s a lie. PPH happens to be caused by a complication of the dura mater. This is a membrane that rests around the brain and spinal cord, meaning any issue from it could cause spinal and neck pain problems. Those who dealt with it claimed it felt like hot metal that was spreading all over their head. It starts there and moves into the neck and shoulders.

Lying down can help sometimes, but relief rarely lasts long. Along with pain in the areas mentioned, it will then spread to the arms and legs. Some experience hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness, and minor paralysis. Most tend to experience this horrible issue due to a lumbar puncture or spinal anesthesia. Cerebrospinal fluid will leak, causing less to reach the brain and spinal cord. That is what tends to cause most of the side effects. Obviously, this is one of the most painful experiences one could go through. It actually occurs so rarely that hospitals investigate how it occurred. That should speak volumes.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via Monty Python]

Limbs Being Chopped Off

Decades to centuries ago, limbs or digits would be cut off for numerous reasons. In some Middle East nations, fingers, hands, or entire arms might be cut off for stealing. Yet most limbs were cut off for two main reasons. In war, everything is legal and limbs might be cut off in battle. This was not as common, but it did occur. Most who lost limbs in a battle actually happened to be Roman Gladiators. However, probably the most common reason people saw limbs removed was due to medical needs.

Since they did not have things like antibiotics, nor did they understand hygiene, parts of the body might become infected as a result. Things like gangrene might set in, and to prevent things from spreading, the medical professionals would cut off an entire limb or a large chunk. Most of the time, they did not have anything to numb or dull the pain. Thus, they had to be held down as someone cut the limb off. Talk about one of the most painful experiences ever. That sounds horrific!

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via TortureMuseum.net]

Judas Cradle

We’re going to try to explain this in the best way we can without getting too graphic. While we could tell you the entire gruesome tale of the Judas Cradle, the ownership group and editor of this website will not allow that. Heck, Google might even punish us. This was a torture device, mostly used during the medieval period. The device was shaped like a pyramid and relatively sharp. The fact that it was sharp and shaped as it was should give you a clue as to how it was used. The victim or criminal would be lowered on top of it by ropes.

Once lowered, the device would be placed inside the anus and slowly the person would be lowered more or forced down. That would ideally rip open the area (ouch!). However, this did not always work, so they also lowered men onto their scrotum. Sometimes, women were tortured with it and were lowered onto their vulva. The device would slowly rip into both. Of course, the reason one was lowered slowly was simply due to torture and the hope that the person would talk. Very little is known of the victims, but it’s obvious that this has to be one of the most painful experiences one could ever have, right?

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Dercum’s Disease

Very few people know of Dercum’s Disease, and that makes sense. It is a very rare disease, and likely not the first thing one would be diagnosed with by the average doctor. Essentially, the disease causes general obesity and fatty tumors in the adipose tissue. This means the person might appear larger due to the disease, which is problematic. The extra fat appearance can hide the tumors at times. These tumors are found all over the body too, and they can be very painful.

There is no known cause as of this writing for the disease. Some assume it’s caused by a nervous system dysfunction, major trauma, or even potential mechanical pressure on nerves. However, none have been proven to be the cause yet. What we do know is that having the disease can be one of the most painful experiences one could go through. Imagine having numerous tumors, all painful, popping up all over your body. That is like torture!

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Bullet Ant Sting

If you ask anyone that has ever been stung by a bullet ant, they will most certainly tell you it was one of the most painful experiences of their life. That is for good reason, as it’s absolute torture! The Schmidt Pain Index rates the sting a 4.0 out of 4.0, which says a lot. The inventor of the scale, Jason O. Schmidt took stings from numerous species to rank their pain level and found the bullet ant’s to be among the worst he ever experienced. Jason claimed it is: “pure, intense, brilliant pain…like walking over flaming charcoal with a three-inch nail embedded in your heel.” 

We’ll trust his judgment on that, but YouTube and Animal Planet animal professional/host Coyote Peterson wanted to test things himself. He also took the Bullet Ant sting and claimed it was some of the worst pain he’s ever experienced. What makes it hurt so much? The venom contains poneratoxin, a neurotoxin peptide. It actually paralyzes many animals but in humans, it causes severe pain. Upon hitting the bloodstream, the venom begins to attack the nerves in the general area. This could be why the pain lasts for roughly 24 hours.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via Daily Mail]

Being Flayed

You’ve likely heard of the infamous “death by 1,000 paper cuts” concept before, right? This was actually kind of a thing, where a person would cut someone in small ways all over the body. Each was specifically targeted, but it could easily seem as if it’s random. A person could end up bleeding to death as a result of it. However, similar to this, one torture method once used was the art of “flaying” a human being.

Normally, when we think of this term, we think of its use in animals. When you flay an animal, you’re often skinning it to either use the skin/hair for something or to begin the process of cutting the animal up to eat it. While flaying in this case also means removing organs, that is not the concept for human flaying. In torture, the person will be held down while their skin is slowly cut off, in the attempt to keep it completely intact.  Obviously, this is one of the most painful experiences you could deal with.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via Julio the Artist – Twitter]

Blood Eagle

Potentially the most gruesome thing you could ever do to a person, the Blood Eagle was used pretty rarely. Usually done as a ritual method of execution, it was mostly seen in Nordic societies centuries ago. There are only a few documented cases of this occurring, both happening to members of a royal family. The person is usually held down in a prone position. They will be cut open, then their ribs will be cut from their spine.

From here, their lungs will be pulled through the opening. Ideally, that would create what appeared to be a pair of “wings.” Of course, that is what gives the method its name. Due to the horrific nature of the execution, many believe it only could have existed in literature. Yet if it really did occur, it is not even a question. This would have to be one of the most painful experiences you could have. One would likely hope they’d be gone from the Earthly plane before the bulk of it took place.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
Gonadal Torsion. Shutterstock.

Gonadal Torsion

While some incorrectly assume this is more of an issue men go through, it can also happen to women. Gonadal Torsion, by name alone, sounds horrible. For men, testicular torsion happens when the spermatic cord twists, thus cutting off blood supply to the testicle. It is more likely for young boys or even newborn boys to experience this. Men might get it if they have previously had a testicular tumor or have a congenital malformation. To fix the problem, you surgically untwist the testicle.

Ovarian torsion is pretty similar and fixed the same way. An ovary twists, decreasing blood flow. It’s most common in women of reproductive age. Women can develop this issue if they have ovarian cysts or tumors, on top of pregnancy, fertility treatment, or tubal ligation. Due to this, the risk is potentially higher for women to experience gonadal torsion than men. Yet it only affects 6 in 100,000 women annually. Both involve horrific pain, making it one of the most painful experiences one can have.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Brazen Bull

While uncertain if the story of this torture device was real, it is certainly compelling. Invented by Perillos of Athens, the Brazen Bull was a new torture and execution device. He presented his invention to the known tyrant ruler of Sicily at the time, Phalaris. It was meant to be used on those that harmed others or did the worst crimes possible. Of course, the device appeared to be a bull made of bronze. It worked by putting a person inside the opening, then locking it behind them.

You’d then place a fire underneath it, thus heating the bull made of bronze. Essentially, the person would be roasted to death and likely scream from the pain until their passing breathe. Phalaris liked the idea of the machine but needed an example to see if he truly wanted it. Therefore, he put Perillos inside and roasted him alive. It is uncertain how many were executed via Brazen Bull. Yet one would have to assume it would be one of the most painful experiences ever!

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Irukandji Syndrome

Relatively rare, Irukandji Syndrome occurs when a person is envenomated by the box jellyfish. Specifically, the Irukandji jellyfish. While not all stings from this jellyfish will be deadly, they can cause severe issues beyond the obvious pain. This includes things like cardiac arrest. Everyone who is stung goes through one of the most painful experiences one could ever deal with.

The syndrome was coined by Hugo Flecker in 1952 when he came across aboriginal Irukandji people around the Palm Cove in Queensland, Australia. They had been stung often, along with visitors to the area. Thus, the term was born. Some are stung by jellyfish so often in the Australian region that they develop a form of immunity and can withstand the pain or not experience any. Of course, you have to think about how many stings and painful experiences they had to go through to get the immunity.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Crucifixion

While Jesus Christ’s notable crucifixion is referenced in an absolutely horrible form, he actually experienced a very different form of crucifixion. His hands and feet were nailed to a wooden cross, yet that is not how it normally happened. Plus, the Romans rarely ever used it. When they did, the wooden beams they used were rarely perfectly. They might be logs strapped together, and these beams might never be used again. Most were strapped to a cross or single beam, just being tied up with rope.

Nails seem to only be referenced with Jesus, and very few others in history. Other times, they wouldn’t be strapped to a cross structure, but just a single beam. Often, a platform was used for them to stand on where they’d be strapped in. Other times, they wouldn’t and would have their legs strapped up. The idea was that the person would slowly starve to death. Yet they could pass for many reasons. Weather and temperature could end them, along with possibly acidosis, asphyxia, dehydration, hypovolemic shock, heart failure, and much more.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a relatively rare condition that is directly tied to the trigeminal nerve within the face. While most will never have to experience any problems with this nerve, others will for a multitude of reasons. Those who suffer from this condition complain about sudden, severe facial pain that can feel like you’re being shocked. The pain can last anywhere between a few seconds to as long as 2 minutes. It can be one of the most painful experiences a person could go through.

The nerve disorder might only affect the jaw area, but it can also happen at random to the gums or teeth too. Most common in women over 50, there are some triggers those with the disorder need to look out for. Chewing, speaking, or even brushing your teeth can cause this shocking sensation. This means that the nerves are being aggravated, and could likely be tamed by nerve medications. However, some have had great success with injections and even surgeries.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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The Rack

Possibly one of the most famous torture devices, “The Rack” was used to get answers out of people by stretching them. Most racks tend to work the same way. One is placed on a wooden slab where their ankles are strapped along with their arms via the wrist. The ties were usually made of tough leather and attached to chains or ropes. The device had rollers at the end that would pull on these areas to stretch out the victim. The device would work via pulley or lever, while the roller would be on its own axis. This made the process easy for the torturer as they did not need to be incredibly strong to pull the body.

The goal is to put stress on the person’s shoulders, hips, knees, and elbows. Pretty much anyone could end up with separated shoulders as well as sometimes severe ligament damage in the legs. Once dislocations happened to a person, pulling no longer could work. On top of this, if muscle fibers are stretched too much, they don’t contract, making them ineffective. Thus, those that could hold on and deal with the pain would regret trying to do so. They along with the torturer would hear bones, cartilage, or ligaments popping. Sometimes, bones could break too. The loudness of all of this is just sickening.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
[Image via Shuttershock/ Vinicius R. Souza]

Warrior Wasp Sting

Possessing possibly the most painful sting one could ever take, the Warrior Wasp understands its power and does not randomly go around stinging. Yet their name is fitting, as they can be quite aggressive when needed. Found in tropical areas of South America, the wasps are known to guard their nests with extreme Roman-like precision. Any threat will be attacked by several wasps. What’s worse is that their stinger is barbed, causing them to often lose their stinger, killing the wasp.

This means these wasps believe in protecting their home so much they attack like a Kamikaze pilot. They know it is a suicide mission to sting and do it anyway. Before attacking, they actually create a drumming noise in their nest as a way to warn predators, similar to rattlesnakes using their rattles. The Warrior Wasp sting will cause horrific pain in humans that lasts for around 2 hours. Those stung claim it is a feeling of torture as lava from a volcano flows through your arm. That clearly makes it one of the most painful experiences one could go through.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Kidney Stones

While both men and women can get kidney stones, it seems that men tend to go through it more and often report having the most pain from them. There are many reasons why one can get kidney stones. It could be related to your diet, medications you’re using, or potentially other medical conditions. Kidney stones themselves are just hard deposits made of minerals and salts from your concentrated urine that form inside your kidneys. They look like little balls, but it’s not that simple.

These little balls are often barbed and hurt like hell coming out. While trying to pass one alone is painful, it comes with severe abdominal pain and nausea. It is said that this pain is possibly the most pain a man can experience from natural body-caused issues. That clearly makes it one of the most painful experiences anyone could go through. Luckily, if passed in enough time, there is no risk for long-term damage. Yet some might get them frequently and require specific medication or surgery.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Being Boiled Alive

While it might seem pretty obvious, being boiled alive is pretty painful. It is not as if you’re in some spa or something. Rather, you’re being put in water that will typically be so hot that burns could be immediate upon your placement inside. The thing is, you’re not going to experience the exact same issue as you would with lava. Since lava is a few thousand degrees, it can melt skin upon impact. Yet boiling water will burn you, yet take a long time to melt you to your bones.

The average campfire can be between 600 to 900 degrees Fahrenheit, yet larger versions can get to as high as 900 to 2,000 degrees. Of course, since you’re boiling someone here, it’ll likely be on a smaller fire. Human skin burns and starts melting beginning at around 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus, not only are you being burned, but you’re having to experience it for a long period of time that only gets more and more painful. The very fact that it is seemingly endless burn torture makes it horrific.

The Most Painful Experiences Humans Can Go Through
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Childbirth

Did we really need to tell you this is one of the most painful experiences of all time? It is said to be so painful that there is not a true equal pain rate for men. The closest men can get to childbirth pain is a kidney stone combined with pulling your bottom lip over your head. The pain women have to deal with during childbirth is absolutely horrific. However, birthing the child is not the only issue. Contraction pain comes first. A woman could experience them separated by 30 minutes then 20, then 10, and so on. The closer the pains get to one another, the closer it will be to the birth.

While most women tend to have their child naturally through the vagina, some can’t for various reasons. That requires a C-section, where a women’s organs are removed just enough to get the child out and put back in. When the child is born naturally, the cervix will be opened, the child comes out, and then the placenta. During birth, a vagina could stretch up to three times its normal stretch capacity. Imagine men trying to birth out of their penis and having it stretch three times its normal size like that. This is why we believe childbirth is likely the most painful natural human pain experience ever.

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Mayo Clinic

Johns Hopkins Medicine

American Academy of Family Physicians

University of Rochester

Yale University

New Jersey Urology

National Institutes Of Health

Scholastic

UK National Health System (NHS)

Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases

Annual Review of Biomedical Engineering

Animal Planet

BBC

ABC News

Britannica

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