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Would falling into a black hole be painful?

Black holes have long fascinated scientists and the general public alike. Often portrayed as destructive monsters that swallow anything that gets too close, black holes capture our imaginations. While we have a basic understanding of what black holes are and what causes them, there are still many unanswered questions surrounding these mysterious objects. One such question that many people wonder is: If you fell into a black hole, would it be painful? In this article, we’ll explore what scientists currently understand about the experience of falling into a black hole and whether it would likely be painful or not.

What Happens at the Event Horizon

First, let’s briefly go over what black holes are and how they form. Black holes form when a massive star runs out of fuel and collapses under its own gravity. This collapse is so extreme that it creates a region of infinite density and gravity at the center, called a singularity. The black hole’s “surface,” known as the event horizon, defines the boundary where the escape velocity equals the speed of light – meaning nothing can escape the black hole’s gravitational pull once it crosses this threshold, not even light itself.

So what would happen to you as you crossed the event horizon? First, you wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary upon approaching and crossing the horizon. Passing the horizon itself would not be painful because there are no physical forces acting on you at that location. However, the situation quickly changes as you get pulled inexorably closer to the singularity.


As you fall toward the singularity, you begin to experience increasing tidal forces. A tidal force is a difference in gravitational pull between the side of an object closest to something and the side farthest away. In this case, gravity is pulling much more strongly on the side of your body closer to the singularity than the side further away. These tidal forces become so extreme near the singularity that your body would be stretched and squeezed with such immense force that you’d be “spaghettified” – turned into a long, thin strand of human spaghetti. Here is a more detailed look at the timeline of what you’d experience:[1]

Minutes/hours from the event horizon

  • You’d at first be weightless, experiencing total freefall.
  • As you get closer to the singularity, you’d begin to notice the tidal forces stretching your feet more than your head and back.
  • These forces would build slowly enough that your body could potentially adapt by secreting natural endorphins to relieve the pain.

Minutes/seconds from the singularity

  • Tidal forces would become so extreme that all layered bodily tissues would start separating – muscle from bone, vessel from muscle, etc.
  • Nerves would likely rupture from tissue stretching, causing extremely intense pain.
  • Your brain would remain intact just long enough for you to potentially experience the horror before you were shredded entirely.

So in summary, while crossing the event horizon itself would be painless, approaching the singularity would result in extreme spaghettification that would likely cause unimaginable pain right up until you were completely obliterated.

Other Factors Affecting Pain

There are a few other factors that could potentially affect pain levels during spaghettification:

Size of the Black Hole

The size of the black hole’s event horizon correlates with the strength of its gravitational pull. Supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies have much more gradual tidal forces than smaller black holes. If you fell into a supermassive one, spaghettification would take much longer, potentially allowing your brain to release more pain-reducing chemicals. So a smaller black hole likely means faster and more painful spaghettification.[2]

Feet First vs Head First

If you fell into a black hole feet first, the gravitational pull would stretch your feet upwards and your head downwards. Since your brain would remain intact longer this way, you could potentially remain conscious and feel the painful spaghettification for a longer duration before your head was ripped apart.

Falling in head first would result in the reverse scenario. Your brain would be destroyed more quickly, potentially saving you from experiencing some extra moments of painful stretching before oblivion.

Possibility of Surviving Inside the Event Horizon

Some theories suggest that within the event horizon, space could actually wrap around itself, allowing you to survive for a while without being spaghettified. But even if this were true, other fatal forces would likely kill you quickly:[3]

  • Intense gravity would cause your blood and tissue fluids to spontaneously boil.
  • Rapid build up of radiation would quickly reach lethal doses.
  • Within microseconds, these forces would crush your body down to a speck of superheated plasma.

So any survival time within the horizon would likely be brief and exceptionally unpleasant.


Based on our current physics models, falling into a black hole would almost certainly subject you to an excruciating death by spaghettification. The experience would likely be extremely painful due to the intense tidal forces ripping your body and nerves apart. Specifically, a small black hole, combined with falling in feet first, would maximize pain levels by allowing your brain to remain conscious as long as possible while undergoing rapid spaghettification.

Theories about potential survival inside the event horizon offer little practical optimism either. Any such survival would almost certainly be very brief and involve even more extreme pain and suffering than the spaghettification itself. So next time you’re staring up at the night sky dreaming about space travel, make sure to avoid any paths that take you too close to these gravitational monstrosities!


  1. Thorne, Kip S. Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy. W. W. Norton & Company, 1995.
  2. Frolov, Valeri P., and Andrei Zelnikov. “Tidal forces inside a Schwarzschild black hole.” Physical Review D 93.4 (2016): 044042.
  3. Marolf, Donald. “The black hole information paradox.” Reports on Progress in Physics 79.9 (2016): 092001.