Why Do We Dance When We Need to Pee?

It turns out that jiggling side-to-side, squeezing, and crossing your legs can help control your bladder.

You know the situation all too well. Chugging a large bottle of water on a particularly scorching hot day before settling into a long road trip, you suddenly need to pee. But when the next rest stop is not for another 20 miles, you're definitely regretting that drink.

Or, you had a few drinks while swapping tales and laughing with friends at a restaurant. But when you head to the restroom, there's already a line of ten people.

Whatever the scenario, you become increasingly impatient and slowly start jiggling up and down and side-to-side. You squeeze your legs together, your movements becoming increasingly frantic. It's the well-known "pee dance," and you need the restroom ASAP.

When the urge to pee gets too intense in those moments, we resort to the child-like pee dance. It's instinctual. But when you think about sloshing all that liquid around, it seems a bit counterintuitive. When we have to pee so badly that we cannot wait, why do we resort to moving around so much? Well, there are few possible scientific explanations.

Women crossing her legs while needing to pee
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Focusing On Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

Unfortunately, there is not much conclusive scientific evidence to explain it, Howard Goldman, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told Health. Pee dancing is not exactly the most pressing issue for scientists to study. However, based on other research and extensive knowledge of how the bladder works, Dr. Goldman proposed some hypotheses.

"Number one, when you're moving around and jiggling, you're causing some contraction of the pelvic floor," Dr. Goldman said.

Per the National Library of Medicine, the pelvic floor is a hammock-shaped group of muscles and tissues that support the organs in your pelvic region—including your bladder and bowels. In people assigned female at birth, the pelvic floor also supports the uterus.

Your pelvic floor is also important in controlling your bladder. Think about it like this: Your bladder is essentially a reservoir. For hours, it simply acts as a container to collect the urine slowly trickling in. But when it becomes full, the bladder starts sending messages to your brain, signaling that it's time to use the restroom.

And during that time, the muscles in the pelvic floor that surround the urethra are keeping your bladder from leaking.

"When it's time to urinate, [the pelvic floor muscles] open and relax to allow urine to pass by," noted Dr. Goldman.

So, when you perform a pee dance and wiggle around, you cause those muscles to contract even more than they naturally do. That can make the feeling of needing to pee so badly a slightly less like an emergency.

A Distraction for Your Bladder

Moving around a bit when you have to pee is also a great method of distraction from urgently needing to find a restroom.

"When people have overactive bladders, and they're trying to extend the time periods between their urination, we have them do distracting activities—count backward, things like that," added Dr. Goldman.

The same idea applies to the pee dance. It distracts your brain, even momentarily, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

It's natural for people to do distracting movements like dancing and moving around in times of stress, said Dr. Goldman. And having to pee without access to a bathroom can certainly be stressful.

"Partly, [the dance] is an adaptation," Dr. Goldman noted. "You're stressed, so you move around, and when you're moving around, the pelvic floor muscles tighten a little bit, and there's some distraction, which then helps calm the bladder down."

A Pee Dance Also Helps Urinary Incontinence

On top of the pee dance, you may squeeze or cross your legs. According to Dr. Goldman, there is actually a biological reason behind that move, too.

Both the penis and the clitoris have a lot of nerve endings. And some research shows that when those nerves are stimulated, the sensors in the bladder are inhibited.

"That makes a lot of sense because the last thing you want when the penis or the clitoris are being stimulated is to have a bladder contraction," said Dr. Goldman.

This ability for those nerves to quiet the bladder is a well-known reflex among scientists, and some are working on devices that could stimulate the nerves at the right time to calm the bladders of people who struggle with urinary incontinence.

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, urinary incontinence is a loss of bladder control and occurs when the pelvic floor muscles become weak. It is common among the elderly, but it can also occur due to nerve and muscle injuries and pregnancy.

In a study published in 2016 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, researchers examined the effects of "dorsal genital nerve stimulation," a device that electrically stimulates the penile or clitoral nerves, on patients who have urinary incontinence. The researchers found that the patients' urges to pee significantly decreased.

So, Is a Pee Dance Helpful?

Ultimately, while it sounds completely counterintuitive (and kind of embarrassing) to send the urine in your bladder on a rollercoaster ride with a pee dance, doing a little jig and squeezing your thighs together can help.

Next time you are unable to get to a bathroom, or if you struggle with bladder control, even a squeeze and cross of the legs can do wonders to hold you over until you find a toilet.

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