Belly buttons are one of the more bizarre parts of human anatomy. Essential whilst we are still in the womb, these funny little crevices serve no purpose as soon as our umbilical cords are cut. So why does it feel weird when someone pokes them?!
I’ve always loved to poke my partner’s belly button. I have no idea why. It’s just there, and it’s always funny to see them jolt a little afterwards. I also hate outie belly buttons, so if anything I’m checking their belly button is to my liking. I’m not alone in being fascinated with belly buttons either. When I was in my late teens, I decided to take the plunge and get my naval pierced. As soon as it was done, everyone I knew wanted to play with it and see what it felt like. Everybody knows that we have belly buttons (except for that time everybody thought Taylor Swift didn’t), so how come we all don’t know this odd little mystery about our own bodies?
As I write this, I’m poking around a little inside my belly button. It’s an odd sensation. For some reason, it feels like I’m touching my insides, and it’s not dissimilar to really needing to pee, but at the same time it’s completely unique. Thankfully, Dr. Christopher Hollingsworth of NYC Surgical Associates, has explained exactly what’s going on. “At the navel, you have the ability to stimulate not only the skin overlying the navel, but also the fibers of the inner lining of your abdomen,” Hollingsworth revealed. “So, as you stick your finger into your belly button, it sends a signal from the deeper fibers that line your inner abdominal cavity to your spinal cord. Because your spinal cord at that level is also relaying signals from your bladder and urethra, it feels almost the same. You interpret this as discomfort in your bladder.” Huzzah! So that explains one part of this age-old mystery. But why is it just the belly button that causes this sensation and not elsewhere on our stomachs? Hollingsworth has explained that too.
“You will notice that if you push anywhere around the belly button, it won’t give you the same sensation because you aren’t hitting the deeper fibers behind the muscle layer,” he says. “The internal lining of the abdominal cavity at your umbilicus (belly button) is called your parietal peritoneum. This structure is exquisitely sensitive and its sensory nerve fibers relay input back to the spinal cord at the same level as the nerves that relay sensation from your bladder and urethra.”
This has sort of put me off playing with my partner’s belly button in future. I don’t want to make them feel like they need to go to the toilet. I guess I can impress them with the fact that just touching their belly button is stimulating the abdominal tissue close to the part of their spine that tells their body when it’s time to take a whizz. The more you know… But then again, giving my partner’s belly button a poke is a fun and playful thing to do, so I’m probably not going to stop it. After all, it’s the number one place for crumbs to take up residence (damn you biscuits!), and I’m all for personal hygiene!