Practically everybody has skilled hiccups, however what precisely are they? It was thought {that a} hiccup is only a easy muscle spasm of the diaphragm, however that was apparently disproven greater than 40 years in the past. As an alternative, hiccups contain a fancy, orchestrated sample of muscle contractions. However, why?

Hiccups may be a leftover from the womb. Throughout fetal life, “hiccups are universally current, their incidence peaking within the third trimester…[This] recommend[s] that hiccups would possibly symbolize a crucial and very important primitive reflex” that may allow in-the-womb coaching of the respiration muscle tissue with out choking on amniotic fluid.

In maturity, almost something can set off hiccups. Living proof: A 19-year-old girl introduced with persistent hiccups. Her bodily examination was regular apart from an ant crawling on her eardrum. As soon as the ant was eliminated, her hiccups stopped.

There look like as many cures for hiccups as there are causes, as I talk about in my video Learn how to Cease Hiccups. Because the well-known Dr. Mayo put it, the much less we learn about one thing, the extra therapies we appear to have for it—and maybe “there is no such thing as a illness which has had extra types of therapies…than has persistent hiccups.”

There are medication, after all. There are at all times plenty of medication, from thorazine to apomorphine, however there are additionally an entire slew of non-pharmacological approaches—from respiration right into a paper bag and ingesting from the far facet of a glass to smearing mustard in your tummy (as you may see at 1:24 in my video). “Many of those ‘cures’ haven’t been examined and a few seem to have been invented ‘purely for the amusement of the affected person’s pals’.” One methodology, “forcible traction of the tongue” (which suggests pulling on somebody’s tongue) was attributed to the nice Dr. Osler, the primary Chief Doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital, however the “remedy, nonetheless, is way older and (maybe not surprisingly) of French origin.”

One other trick which may work to remedy hiccups is “a modified Heimlich maneuver,” consisting of simply three thrusts and average strain. In a single occasion, it was so profitable the affected person’s “hiccups ceased instantly.” Basically, nonetheless, “[t]reatment is notably disappointing, as is evidenced by the a whole lot of cures have been tried, none of which have been repeatedly healing.” You already know docs are beginning to get determined once they recommend issues like chilling the ear lobe, and you already know they’re actually getting determined once they have so as to add prayer to the tip of a miscellaneous hiccup cures checklist.

“Use of vinegar to alleviate persistent hiccups in a complicated most cancers affected person” was the paper that began me down the hiccup rabbit gap. I used to be reviewing the newest analysis on vinegar and stumbled throughout a case the place, “[a]fter the failure of widespread therapies for hiccups, the affected person was given a sip of vinegar and his hiccups abated”—stopped after only a single sip. Evidently, bitter tastes, akin to vinegar and lemon, have been used to deal with hiccups because the 1930s, however “nonpharmacological cures akin to vinegar…fell out of favor with the widespread use of pharmacotherapy,” that’s, medication. In spite of everything, how a lot are you able to cost for a sip of vinegar?

If worse involves worst, there’s the “phrenic nerve crush” surgical procedure, which is as dangerous because it sounds. Earlier than going that route, although, it’s possible you’ll discover it “stunning what number of sufferers with hiccups reply to digital compression of the eyeballs.” Sure, we’re speaking about digit as in finger, as in pushing your finger into somebody’s eyes as a counter-irritation measure. That can get their thoughts off their hiccups!

If a finger within the eye in some way doesn’t distract them sufficient, docs can strive “digital rectal therapeutic massage.” A 27-year-old man introduced to the ER with “intractable hiccups.” Emergency workers tried massaging different locations and even tried the digital eyeball compression, however nothing appeared to do it. So, bend over. “Digital rectal therapeutic massage was then tried utilizing a sluggish circumferential movement”—and it labored! So, earlier than giving sufferers medication, perhaps we might give them a therapeutic massage. It’s “simple to carry out” and could also be much less harmful than sticking your fingers into individuals’s eye sockets, which, in the event you’re in medical faculty and need to memorize all these ridiculous names, is called the Dagnini-Aschner Maneuver. (Drugs loves its eponyms.)

Talking of maneuvers, how’s this for a pick-up line? “Good day. (Hic!) Wish to assist me (hic!) remedy my hiccups?” In a single case, on the fourth day of steady hiccuping, the affected person’s hiccups lastly “instantly and fully ceased,” with some spousal assist, on the level of climax. “It’s unclear,” the physician wrote, “whether or not orgasm in girls results in the same decision, a problem that may very well be investigated additional.” 

And it was, again in 1845. An notorious, disturbing case report that amounted to successfully bragging about sexual assault was printed in what was to be change into the New England Journal of Drugs. A younger, spiritual girl with intractable hiccups fell into the fingers of a Dr. George Dexter. He first tried one of the best fashionable drugs may supply—bloodletting—however she continued to hiccup, till he pressed his hand on her genitals for a couple of minutes and that apparently labored. This went on for month after month, with the physician continuously calling in his colleagues to point out them this “singular phenomena.”

Who was this man? “Though his interplay with the younger feminine affected person wouldn’t meet immediately’s moral requirements”—you may say that once more!—“his medical remark was legitimate…” Though rectal therapeutic massage and sexual stimulation could assist, “this type of suggestion is reserved for rigorously chosen sufferers!”


DO NOT drink vinegar straight. On this weblog, I talked about taking a tiny sip, not full-on ingesting it. Should you do drink as an alternative of sip, you can also make the issue worse, as I talk about in my video Vinegar Mechanisms and Facet Results. Vinegar might be nice stuff, although. Try my video sequence to seek out out why I embody it in my family’s every day weight-reduction plan:

There’s one other strategy to deal with hiccups—one which I’ve used myself since I used to be a child. Since then, I’ve by no means had a couple of or two hiccups as a result of I can cease them of their tracks. Study my trick in my video Learn how to Strengthen the Thoughts-Physique Connection.

In well being,
Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: Should you haven’t but, you may subscribe to my free movies right here and watch my dwell shows:

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