Why does hiccups arise and how to stop it?


  • The physiological essence of hiccups
  • Causes and types of hiccups
  • Treatment

Hiccup – a phenomenon familiar to all since childhood. Hacking person looks funny, but his own feelings are far from pleasant. In most cases, this state passes fairly quickly, but sometimes takes on a debilitating chronic form. The Guinness Book of Records records a case in which a person had hiccups (and for no apparent physiological reason) for 68 years.

The physiological essence of hiccups

Hiccup – uncontrollable respiratory reflex. The mechanism of its occurrence involves the diaphragm, intercostal muscles, larynx, and nerve endings. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscular partition delimiting the abdominal cavity and sternum. It is her vibrations that allow the lungs to expand as you inhale and shrink as you exhale. During hiccups, smooth movements of the diaphragm are replaced by convulsive, jogging, and intercostal muscles work in the same rhythm. The result is a very short breath, blocked by the epiglottis (hence the characteristic sound), and for a split second a kind of suffocation arises.

Any movement in the human body is the result of the interaction of the omnipresent control nerves with the brain as well as with the spinal cord. The diaphragmatic nerves, which originate from the cervical spinal cord, are responsible for the contraction of the diaphragm. The vagus nerve connects the brain and the peritoneum, affecting the larynx. Approaching the esophagus, from the pronounced trunks (left and right) it breaks up into several branches that surround the esophagus, forming a plexus. The anterior and posterior branches squeeze through a rather narrow diaphragmatic opening together with the esophagus, therefore irritation or stretching of its walls has a direct effect on the control nerves.

Hiccup is the product of transmission to the brain and spinal cord of a nerve impulse along a reflex arc during stimulation of the diaphragm and the vagus nerve. The brain instantly gives a response signal, which causes a sharp diaphragmatic contraction. The hiccup stops when the transmission of pulses stops, and the control of the movement of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles will return to the control of the respiratory center.

Causes and types of hiccups

The causes of hiccups are mostly completely harmless, but in some cases such a respiratory failure indicates a serious pathology.

Physiological hiccups

There is no concern physiological (episodic) hiccups, which is provoked by the following reasons:

  • hypothermia (causes a convulsive contraction of muscle tissue);
  • stress (there are temporary failures in the transmission of nerve impulses);
  • irritation of the esophagus (too hot, cold or fatty foods, large pieces, alcohol intake);
  • quick ingestion of food, accompanied by the ingress of air into the esophagus and stomach;
  • uncomfortable body position.

Among experts there is an opinion that hiccups are one of the methods of the body’s defense system. In the cases listed above, spasms of the diaphragm and esophagus signal poor quality of food, its excess or toxicity. The signal from the vagus nerve immediately enters the brain, the person begins to hiccup. For the same reason, very often hiccups occur in young children, because their body reacts to stimuli quickly and smoothly. Such a hiccup passes fairly quickly – within 5-25 minutes, sometimes it resumes again (it is typical for people intoxicated with alcohol).


Pathological hiccups (ICD-10 code : R06.6) – a companion of diseases. Disturbing often daily for several days, weeks or even months. Attacks continue for hours, sometimes days, in some cases accompanied by heartburn, headache, vomiting, a sense of general weakness.

There are the following types of pathological hiccups:

  • toxic . Appears on the background of infectious diseases: inflammation in the lungs or in the abdominal organs. Infection irritates the diaphragm, which leads to its sharp cuts. This type includes hiccups caused by alcoholism, taking medication. Diaphragm spasms can cause toxins that accumulate in diabetes, kidney failure, liver dysfunction;
  • peripheral . It is provoked by irritation of the phrenic or vagus nerve in diseases of the esophagus, heart, and stomach. This type includes hiccups that occur, for example, in tumors in the chest, hernia of the diaphragm, which develops at the site of the esophageal opening (Bergman syndrome), myocardial infarction, and hernias of intervertebral discs (C4 root region);
  • reflected . The cause of the spasms in this case may be outside the responsibility of the phrenic nerve. For example: intestinal diseases or parasitic infections causing obstruction and intoxication;
  • central origin : diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nervous system.

Frequent hiccups in smokers, which is the result of toxic irritation of the vagus nerve, indicates the development of pathological processes in the stomach or duodenum (ulceration, reflux esophagitis).

Examples of pathological hiccups:

  • hiccups lasting for more than one day, accompanied by copious salivation, may indicate problems with the brain or spinal cord, damage to the nervous system;
  • hiccups with cough, back pain, flanks signals lung damage (pleurisy, pneumonia);
  • if recurrent hiccups are aggravated by headache, there is a general weakness of the body, and aching pains in the neck and shoulders, then osteochondrosis is likely to develop.

If you are worried about frequent and prolonged hiccups, then you should carefully listen to the body for additional symptoms.


Even a short-term hiccup is a strong irritant. There are many proven ways in the people how to get rid of it. The most simple and popular ones are:

  • from a sloping position to drink warm water in small sips;
  • swallow some finely battered ice or eat ice cream;
  • breathe quickly into a paper bag, tightly attaching it from the rhinestone area;
  • eat something bitter or sweet;
  • gently pull the tongue by the tip;
  • eat a teaspoon of sugar, not drinking;
  • lubricate the throat with oregano oil;
  • apply cold to the diaphragm area;
  • hold your ears with your fingers and drink water from a cup placed on the edge of the table;
  • drink chamomile tea, water with lemon or apple cider vinegar (250 ml teaspoon);
  • smell ground pepper to cause sneezing;
  • from a seated position, raise your arms up, pull back a little and with an effort to stretch for 15 seconds;
  • inhale sharply, hold your breath, bend slightly and press the diaphragm area for a few seconds.

In some cases, even repeatedly repeated sentences like “hiccups, go to Fedot” work, but the point here is not in higher powers, but in the position of the diaphragm at a certain rhythm of breathing. Hiccups often stop if a person is frightened or distracted.

Each organism is individual, so those recipes that work flawlessly on some people have absolutely no effect on others. Folk ways are all the more powerless if hiccups are a consequence of pathology. In such cases, a medical examination by a neuropathologist, endocrinologist or gastroenterologist is necessary. Such studies may be prescribed as:

  • blood tests for sugar, worm infestation, infections;
  • endoscopy of the respiratory throat and esophagus;
  • cardiogram;
  • CT or MRI;
  • x-ray aperture.

To relieve hiccups caused by neurological causes, doctors prescribe the following remedies:

  • Корвалол;
  • Chlorpromazine;
  • Finlepsin;
  • Aminazin;
  • barbiphen;
  • Haloperidol;
  • Pipolfen.

If it is necessary to relax the muscles of the diaphragm during irritation of the vagus nerve or in case of problems with the functioning of the respiratory system, then baclofen is prescribed.

When hiccups are due to overcrowding in the stomach , stimulants of peristalsis help: Peristil, Tsisaprid. For the relief of seizures provoked by digestive problems, drugs such as are used:

  • Metoclopramide;
  • Motilium;
  • Omeprazole;
  • Cerupal;
  • Scopolamine.

It is dangerous to take medicines to block long-term hiccups without finding out its causes.

If drugs are powerless, then resort to surgical intervention aimed at blocking the nerves. An example of such a manipulation is the Vishnevsky blockade. In some cases, acupuncture as well as hypnotherapy effectively eliminates hiccups.

Hiccups can occur at the most unexpected moment, so disposal methods are selected depending on the situation: a glass of water or breathing exercises. If spasms appear systematically after eating, you should reconsider your diet and food intake. Thorough chewing, calm atmosphere during the meal, small portions – simple measures that will avoid irritation of the esophagus. In cases when hiccups become obsessive and are accompanied by additional symptoms, you should consult a doctor.