Hiccups are sudden, involuntary contractions of the diaphragm muscle. As the muscle contracts repeatedly, the opening between the vocal cords snaps shut to check the inflow of air and makes the hiccup sound. Irritation of the nerves that extend from the neck to the chest can cause hiccups.
The most common cause of long-term hiccups is damage to or irritation of the vagus nerves or phrenic nerves, which serve the diaphragm muscle. Factors that may cause damage or irritation to these nerves include: A hair or something else in your ear touching your eardrum. A tumor, cyst or goiter in your neck.
Why do I get hiccups?
When the air rushing in hits your voice box, your vocal cords close suddenly and you're left with a big hiccup. Some things that irritate the diaphragm are eating too quickly or too much, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. Almost all cases of the hiccups last only a few minutes.
Hic!" You've just hiccuped for what seems like the tenth time since you finished your big dinner. Wonder where these funny noises are coming from? The part to blame is your diaphragm. This is a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of your chest, and all hiccups start here.
How often do you get the hiccups?
Once a weekOnce a monthEvery few monthsNeverOther:
The diaphragm almost always works perfectly. When you inhale, it pulls down to help pull air into the lungs. When you exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and air flows out of the lungs back out through the nose and mouth.
But sometimes the diaphragm becomes irritated. When this happens, it pulls down in a jerky way, which makes you suck air into your throat suddenly. When the air rushing in hits your voice box, your vocal cords close suddenly and you're left with a big hiccup.
Eating too quickly and swallowing air along with foods. Eating too much (fatty or spicy foods, in particular) or drinking too much (carbonated beverages or alcohol) can distend the stomach and irritate the diaphragm, which can cause hiccups.
Some things that irritate the diaphragm are eating too quickly or too much, an irritation in the stomach or the throat, or feeling nervous or excited. Almost all cases of the hiccups last only a few minutes. Some cases of the hiccups can last for days or even months, but this is very unusual and it's usually a sign of another medical problem.
You've probably heard lots of suggestions for how to get rid of hiccups, and maybe you've even tried a few. Holding your breath and counting to 10 is one way some people can get rid of their hiccups. Other people say that drinking from the "wrong" side of a glass of water is the way to become hiccup-free.
Putting sugar under your tongue might work, too. And maybe the most famous treatment — having someone jump out and scare you when you're not expecting it — helps some people wave goodbye to their hiccups. Boo!
Hiccups usually stop within a few minutes to a few hours. Hiccups that last longer than 48 hours are called persistent hiccups. Hiccups that last longer than a month are called intractable hiccups. While very rare, intractable hiccups can cause exhaustion, lack of sleep, and weight loss.