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Hiccough Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Hiccups is the common name (phrenoglottic myoclonus in medical terms) to describe a succession of involuntary and repeated spasmodic contractions of the diaphragm associated with glottal closure and often contraction of the intercostal muscles. This reflex occurs suddenly and uncontrollably. It results in a series of characteristic sound “hics”.

Typology and causes of hiccups

The hiccups are probably due to stimulations of the phrenic nerves, vague nerves or brainstem located in the brain. These stimulations trigger the hiccup reflex.

There are two types of hiccups. The most common is the so- called benign (or acute) hiccup, which generally lasts no more than a few minutes, or even only a few seconds, and then stops spontaneously. It is due to vagus or phrenic nerve stimulation, usually of intestinal origin. However, it can be linked to many different factors: too much or too much food intake, aerophagia, pregnancy, excessive smoking, laughing, coughing, sudden changes in temperature, stress, alcohol abuse, consumption of drinks soft …

In a much rarer way, some people may have chronic hiccups (or rebellious hiccups). It is said to be persistent when its duration exceeds 48 hours, and refractory when it lasts more than a month. Hiccups are then considered a disease. The causes of this hiccup are very often pathological that is to say related to different diseases affecting including the phrenic nerve, vagus nerve or brainstem. It may also be due to disorders of the central nervous system, metabolic disorders, or drugs with this adverse effect. People over 50 are the age group most affected by this very rare form of hiccups.


Treatment of hiccups

As its name suggests, benign hiccups are completely harmless and do not require special treatment because it usually stops by itself fairly quickly. There is however a whole series of means or “remedies” that would be able to stop the hiccups. Most rely on the stimulation of the glottis, the increase of the carbon dioxide level in the lungs, the rhythm of the breathing and the diversion. Among the sixty techniques listed, the following can be mentioned:

  • Stop breathing temporarily (voluntary prolonged apnea),
  • Abruptly interrupt breathing with a surprise effect,
  • Drink a big glass of water in one go,
  • Drink a glass of water by plugging your ears and head bent backwards,
  • Pull the tongue forward,
  • Rub the palate with his finger,
  • Suck an ice cube or swallow crushed ice,
  • Swallow an acidic or sweet product (lemon, powdered sugar, dry bread, ginger …),
  • Place a cold object on the belly at the diaphragm,
  • Cause a sneeze while breathing pepper …

This non-exhaustive list of folk remedies and sometimes absurd is to be taken with care: the majority of these methods are transmitted by tradition without it being possible to determine with precision whether they are effective or not. For chronic hiccups, treatment is determined by the disease that triggered it. Several methods including stimulation of the pharyngeal wall with a probe, and drugs (muscle relaxants, antidepressants, anticonvulsants) are however used to try to reduce the frequency of hiccups and relieve the person who suffers.

Prevention of hiccups

It is difficult to prevent the occurrence of hiccups, which occurs quite randomly, but we can try to reduce the risks by avoiding eating too quickly, as well as excess of tobacco, alcohol or soft drinks, the situations of stress or the sudden temperature changes.

Complementary approaches to hiccups

Many methods exist to fight against hiccups.

Classic remedies

In addition to those mentioned above, you can also try other tips.

  • Lie on your back and bend your knees to hold them against your chest.
  • Take a piece of sugar soaked in vinegar.
  • Melt three pieces of sugar in the mouth.
  • Pinch your little finger for a dozen seconds.


For cases of chronic hiccups, it is possible to use complementary therapies such as osteopathy or acupuncture … provided that the cause of the hiccups is known and that the disease or problem in question is already medically treated. . Indeed, chronic hiccups can be due to serious diseases and it is absolutely necessary to start by looking for the cause. Going directly to complementary therapy without going through a medical check-up could be a loss of chance of being treated for a progressive disease in time.


Since hiccups look like a cramp of the diaphragm, homeopathy offers solutions traditionally used in case of muscle cramps such as Cuprum metallicum, Aesculus compound, Tabacum and Cicuta viros.

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