Why do my hiccups hurt?
September 12, 2005 3:58 PM   Subscribe

Why do I get such painful hiccups? And how can I stop them?

Today I've had hiccups for several hours straight, and nothing seems to help. They're very painful, and make eating difficult. They're also noisy, which can be embarressing, and annoying especially when people think it's funny.
posted by Lotto to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My hiccoughs also tend to be loud and somewhat painful. They go away pretty reliably when I drink from the wrong side of the glass. That's a pretty common cure though, so you may have tried it already.

I kind of wonder if our hiccough style (much like our sneeze style) are somehow imprinted on us as children, either as some kind of immitation or as habit that becomes impossible to break. (By which I mean the particular way we hiccouph is a habit we can't break, not the hiccough itself). Much the way I couldn't be one of those little mew sneezers no matter how hard I tried.
posted by duck at 4:17 PM on September 12, 2005

The pain might be from pulled muscles. After all, hiccups are spasms of the diaphragm, and violent jerking motions can do such a thing. Consider a visit to your doctor if it's very painful.

We've heard of plenty of "cures" for hiccups. Personally, I take a drink, exhale completely until no more air will come out, then burp. It works for me, but it might not work for someone else.
posted by Saydur at 4:30 PM on September 12, 2005

I find sucking on a slice of lemon will usually do the trick nicely.
posted by MsMolly at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2005

Filling a glass with water, covering the top with a paper towel and then drinking through the paper towel has always worked perfectly for me. I know it sounds like a ridiculous old wifes' tale but it's really a good one--I think it has something to do with how you have to kind of "suck" on the paper towel as you swallow, it must help even out the diaphragm or something.
posted by bcwinters at 5:00 PM on September 12, 2005

Do you frequently have heartburn?
posted by aramaic at 5:11 PM on September 12, 2005

I get hiccups quite frequently, and if I let them really take hold, I can go for hours. Because they are spasms of the diaphragm, I've found that controlling my breath is the best way to deal with them.

I've tried everything and the only thing that works for me is to lie flat on the floor and concentrate on my breathing. I pinch my nose closed with my fingers and take as big a gulp of breath as I can and close my mouth. I hold it for 10-15 seconds then begin to swallow all while holding my mouth and nose closed. I do that for as long as I can stand it. If it doesn't work the first time I keep going until it does. It always works.
posted by sonnet at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2005

Breathe in and out of a plastic bag. (Just hold it in front of your nose.) I have heard it raises the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, don't know, but I get those kind of nasty, endless hiccups and it cures them.
posted by unrepentanthippie at 6:00 PM on September 12, 2005

My massage therapist taught me a pressure point approach that works wonders:

using your right hand, reach across your chest and over your shoulder, so your right hand is touching your left shoulder blade. At what feels like the 'highest' point of the shoulder blade (the part you can feel most prominently), about two inches down from the top of your shoulder, pinch or firmly press together a tiny fold of skin. Hold for a count of 30. This should hurt.

My hiccups go away within the count of 30 every time.
posted by anastasiav at 6:27 PM on September 12, 2005

Eating a teapoon of white processed sugar does it for me, and there's a medical for reason why it works that I don't remember.
posted by crabintheocean at 6:52 PM on September 12, 2005

My mom has always had loud, horrible, awful hiccups. Nothing she can find to stop them. They are just awful. Loud, painful. She was once sent to the principal's office in grade school because the teacher thought she was faking it, because who's hiccups sound like that?
posted by aacheson at 6:53 PM on September 12, 2005

I sometimes get hiccups when I'm really tired and/or stressed - like, after an all nighter. In the first year of my masters program I pulled a couple of all nighters and hiccuped for about 30 hours straight. Good fun..
posted by slipperywhenwet at 7:16 PM on September 12, 2005

I've had hiccups last for days on several occasions. I always assumed that whatever method I managed to find would eventually stop working once my brain figured out it was just a trick. But my current method really seems to work. I take four quick sips and then a quick breath. I repeat that cycle a few times and it works reliably.

In the past, I've had success with vomiting. I was glad when I read a respectable medical article which also recommended vomiting. My doctor has also prescribed a variety of drugs when I was suffering from a hiccup attack. Other methods I remember from the article include: digital ocular pressure (essentially poking yourself in the eye), pulling on your tongue and having a heart attack.

I think mostly what this proves is that medical science really doesn't have much to offer to the hiccup sufferer.
posted by stuart_s at 8:59 PM on September 12, 2005

Drink a whole glass of water, but from the opposite side of a glass (so your chin is "in" the top of the glass, so to speak).

Hold your hands straight up above your head at the ends of outstretched arms. Then very slowly, as slowly as you possibly can without actually stopping, lower them to your sides.

All these hiccup cure things seem to combine intense concentration on something else with a breathing exercise.

My hiccups often are painful which like the poster above I ascribe to the violence of the spasm -- I doubt thats a learned behaviour.
posted by Rumple at 9:32 PM on September 12, 2005

My partner gets these sorts of hiccups. I'd never seen such painful and loud ones before that, I tend to get quiet ones that last for hours or days, but hers... well, they alarm me.

She tries to take a deep breath, then hold it for as long as possible, then expel all the air in one big rush. Sometimes it works.

One day she was having a painful hiccup attack while at a friends house. I looked her in the eye, and in a commanding voice said `Annnnnnd.... STOP'.

And she did. Mind power (hers) somehow did the trick. It was very impressive from everyone else's point of view.

I have found that for my own hiccups, sitting somewhere quiet and really concentrating on breath control and not hiccuping can work. I'm getting better at this sort of thing as I get older.
posted by tomble at 9:37 PM on September 12, 2005

My grandfather would get hiccups for weeks at a time and it turned out to be congestive heart failure. He had a physical some time before his last bout, when the problem was discovered , but he decided against surgery.

I take a deep breath and force my diaphragm down for a count of thirty.
posted by brujita at 10:15 PM on September 12, 2005

Also: drinking about 20 sips of water upside down, something of the pressure on your diaphragm, the swallowing and having to hold your breath, is the remedy that really works with pretty impressive reliability from what I've seen.

If you're in private and they're getting uncomfortable, I find opening the back of your throat wide so that it can't close (changing it to more of a gasp than a hic) to make them much more tolerable.
posted by abcde at 3:15 AM on September 13, 2005

All these things are good solutions.

Realistically, you're having an autonomic spasm.

The method that I use (that has gotten me dates) is the learning of control of your diaphragm.

Take your first finger and place it beneath the center of your ribcage. This is your diaphragm. Try breathing from there. two seconds in...two seconds out. Repeat.

What you're doing is training your body to think about an autonomic function...giving you some control over it.
posted by filmgeek at 8:34 AM on September 13, 2005

I've had painful hiccups my whole life - the only thing that works with real regularity is eating an entire spoonful of granulated sugar. Honest. Don't know why.

Sometimes drinking water really fast and pretending I'm drowning works too.
posted by agregoli at 9:09 AM on September 13, 2005

When I get hiccups, I immediately spend some time "teaching" my breathing about sinusoidal breathing: I exhale fully and slowly and then immediately "turn around" and inhale fully and slowly. I don't pause when my lungs are full or when they are empty. (Thanks Newton's Apple!)

When the hiccup jumps in and interferes with my perfect cyclic breathing, I just let it and continue.

Oo! Also, I suspect that focusing my attention and desire on "smooth breathing" (instead of "WHEN WILL THESE QUIT?!") is a factor.

When I have any twitch in any muscle in my body, I've learned that going to the chiropractor eliminates it. Period. Always.

Since hiccups are a twitch in your diaphragm muscle, consider going to the chiro.
posted by Moistener at 1:03 PM on September 13, 2005

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