What causes hiccups?
Almost everyone’s had hiccups at one time or another. They happen when your diaphragm begins to spasm involuntarily. Your diaphragm is a large muscle that helps you breathe in and out. When it spasms, you inhale suddenly and your vocal cords snap shut, which causes a distinctive sound.
While hiccups usually go away on their own within a few minutes, they can be annoying and interfere with eating and talking. As a result, people have come up with an endless list of tricks to get rid of them, from breathing into a paper bag to eating a spoonful of sugar. But which remedies actually work?
There aren’t many studies that evaluate the effectiveness of different hiccup remedies. However, many of them are backed by centuries of anecdotal evidence. In addition, some of the most popular remedies actually stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves, which are connected to your diaphragm.
Read on to learn about the most popular and effective ways to get rid of hiccups. Keep in mind that these tips are meant for short bouts of hiccups. If you have chronic hiccups that last for more than 48 hours, talk with your doctor. This may be a sign of an underlying condition requiring treatment.
Breathing and posture techniques
Sometimes, a simple change in your breathing or posture can relax your diaphragm.
1. Practice measured breathing. Disrupt your respiratory system with slow, measured breathing. Breath in for a count of five and out for a count of five.
2. Hold your breath. Inhale a large gulp of air and hold it for about 10 to 20 seconds, then breathe out slowly. Repeat as necessary.
3. Breathe into a paper bag. Place a paper lunch bag over your mouth and nose. Slowly breath in and out, deflating and inflating the bag. Never use a plastic bag.
4. Hug your knees. Sit down in a comfortable place. Bring your knees to your chest and hold them there for two minutes.
5. Compress your chest. Lean or bend forward to compress your chest, which puts pressure on your diaphragm.
6. Use the Valsalva maneuver. To do this maneuver, try to exhale while pinching your nose and keeping your mouth closed.
Pressure points are areas of your body that are particularly sensitive to pressure. Applying pressure to these points with your hands may help to relax your diaphragm or stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves.
7. Pull on your tongue. Pulling on your tongue stimulates the nerves and muscles in your throat. Grab the tip of your tongue and gently pull it forward once or twice.
8. Press on your diaphragm. Your diaphragm separates your abdomen from your lungs. Use your hand to apply pressure to the area just below the end of your sternum.
9. Squeeze your nose closed while swallowing water.
10. Squeeze your palm. Use your thumb to apply pressure to the palm of your other hand.
11. Massage your carotid artery. You have a carotid artery on both sides of your neck. It’s what you feel when you check your pulse by touching your neck. Lie down, turn your head to the left, and massage the artery on the right side in a circular motion for 5 to 10 seconds.
Things to eat or drink
Eating certain things or changing the way you drink may also help to stimulate your vagus or phrenic nerves.
12. Drink ice water. Slowly sipping cold water may help stimulate the vagus nerve.
13. Drink from the opposite side of the glass. Tip the glass up under your chin to drink from the far side.
14. Slowly drink a glass of warm water without stopping to breathe.
15. Drink water through a cloth or paper towel. Cover a glass of cold water with a cloth or paper towel and sip through it.
16. Suck on an ice cube. Suck on the ice cube for a few minutes, then swallow it once it shrinks to a reasonable size.
17. Gargle ice water. Gargle ice water for 30 seconds. Repeat as necessary.
18. Eat a spoonful of honey or peanut butter. Allow it to dissolve in your mouth a bit before swallowing.
19. Eat some sugar. Put a pinch of granulated sugar on your tongue and let it sit there for 5 to 10 seconds, then swallow.
20. Suck on a lemon. Some people add a bit of salt to their lemon slice. Rinse out your mouth with water to protect your teeth from the citric acid.
21. Put a drop of vinegar on your tongue.
Unusual but proven studies
You might not be familiar with these methods, but both are backed by scientific case studies.
22. Have an orgasm. There’s a case study involving a man whose hiccups lasted for four days. They immediately went away after he had an orgasm.
23. Perform a rectal massage. Another case study reports that a man with ongoing hiccups found immediate relief after a rectal massage. Using a rubber glove and plenty of lubricant, insert a finger into the rectum and massage.
Here are a few other enduring remedies you can try.
24. Tap or rub the back of your neck. Rubbing the skin at the back of your neck may stimulate your phrenic nerve.
25. Poke the back of your throat with a Q-tip. Gently swab the back of your throat with a Q-tip until you gag or cough. Your gag reflex may stimulate the vagal nerve.
26. Distract yourself with something engaging. Hiccups often go away on their own when you stop focusing on them. Play a video game, fill out a crossword puzzle, or do some calculations in your head.