Hiccups have bedeviled people since the first caveman shoved too big a hunk of woolly mammoth into his gullet. Singulars as it is medically known, results from th irrigation of the diaphragm, usually caused by indigestion. Phrenic nerve fibers discharge in response, resulting in the spasmodic, painful contractions of the diaphragm. Air is sucked in, then the windpipe abruptly closes (Hic!). Hiccups have no beneficial purpose, though they do argue for taking smaller bites and chewing your food slowly.
For hundreds of years, hiccup cures have been pretty much the same (hold a sugar cube or glob of peanut butter in your mouth, drink water through a handkerchief, stand on your head, breathe through a paper bag, munch on a lime). Thomas Assmar, of Jewett City, Connecticut, invented a supposedly miraculous hiccup-curing machine that sufferers could stand on while drinking water and be tossed up and down 92 times a minute. It is claimed that everybody who tried it was cured – over 100 people in all – but the machine has been lost since Assmar died in 1978.
Except for Assmar’s inventions, for hundreds of years hiccups cures have been pretty much the same, but if you’re a frequent sufferer of hiccups – you’ve probably tried them all and found them wanting. Fortunately, medical science has weighed in on the issue.
Instead of a folk remedy, try the Hughes/Green hiccups cure invented by former hiccups sufferer Dave Hughed, of Redwood Valley California: 1.) Pour a tall glass of water. 2.) While holding your breath and pinching your nose closed, repeatedly take sips of water until you feel like you are drowning, then stop. 3.) Inhale deeply and breathe normally. The hiccups should be cured. Hughes believes this technique works by depriving the spasmodic muscles of oxygen, causing them to stop the hiccuping reflex.
For more stubborn cases, try icing down the nerve fibers that are responsible. It turns out the ideal places to interrupt the hiccups are the sides of the heck. To stop the hiccups, use the method developed by S. Gregory Hipskind, M.D. of Bellingham, Washington. Find your Adam’s apple (for women this point is about 2 inches directly below the chin.) Move back until you are above your clavicle (the big protruding bone at the base of your neck.) You should be just behind the sternocleidomastoid muscles, well back and below your carotid arteries. Apply ice cubes to each side until the hiccuping stops.
In really, really serious cases, your doctor can give you a shot of nefopam, and anti-shivering medication that is highly effective, or baclofen, a muscle relaxant. If those injections don’t work, nimodipine, a calcium channel blocker that inhibits muscle contractions has been shown to cure even the most intractable case of the hiccups.
If all else fails, consider the last resort, successful cure of the former hiccup world-record holder, Jack O’Leary of Los Angeles, who hiccups an estimated 100 million times during an eight-year bout: a prayer to St. Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.