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What are Hiccups & Why do we Get Hiccups?

What are Hiccups and why do we get them?

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Ever wonder what hiccups are? Well simply put, hiccups are spasms in the diaphragm. It is controlled by the phrenic nerve which causes the spasms and the quick inhale that produces the hiccup noise. Typically speaking, hiccups are not a cause for concern. However if they persist longer than normal, it is probably best to have it looked at by your doctor.

What is the Body Doing?
When your body is breathing, the diaphragm shrinks as you inhale. The phrenic nerve directs this contraction and when it is irritated, the diaphragm contracts suddenly. Because you inhale when you contract this muscle, it makes a “hiccup” sound. Once the diaphragm calms the hiccups will stop. Generally hiccups only last for two or three minutes, but in exceptional cases, it could continue for several days.

Reasons for Hiccups
Reasons for hiccups can vary, but most of the time it is caused by food. Hiccups can occur if you eat an excessive amount of food because the food puts pressure on the peptic muscles.

Ingesting air can also irritate the phrenic nerve. In terms of food, if you eat too much or too rapidly, you could be swallowing more air than you think. This puts added stress to the diaphragm and can trigger spasms. Similarly drinking pop, beer, or anything fizzy can have a similar effect.

Sometimes having a sore or agitated throat can cause spasms as well. Typical irritations can come from smoking too much, allergic reactions, or the common cold. Just remember that hiccups should not last too long. If it persists or you are having trouble catching your breath, you should see your doctor immediately.

Another possible explanation for your hiccups is the medication that you are currently taking. If you are taking drugs for indigestion, nausea, insomnia, it is not uncommon to experience hiccups more than usual.

Other Causes
It is rare but sometimes hiccups are caused by something more serious. Generally nerve related injuries or disorders can result in excessive hiccupping. Again, if this is something you’re experiencing, seek medical attention right away.

Hiccupping can be unpleasant if it becomes uncontrollable. If your hiccups are continuous and seem endless, day to day activities such as eating or sleeping can be disrupted. Additionally, spasming muscles eventually lead to soreness and fatigue.

There are many recommended cures to end a hiccupping attack. For starters, many people think drinking water in small doses continuously can help ease the diaphragm muscle. If this does not work, try putting your head between your legs and drinking water out of a straw. Others believe that eating something difficult to ingest can stop the contractions. Because these are all personal claims, you will need to find your own method.

If you’d rather not drink or eat, you could try stretching. By extending your arms over your head and elongating your body some believe that this can stretch the diaphragm and calm the muscle. For added help, try holding your breath while you stretch or take quick breaths. Just remember not to hold your breath too long or you could experience dizziness. If this is the case, try this exercise while sitting or lying down.

One method we’ve all heard of is startling a person, or catching them off guard. While this could help, it is not the best method. For one, you could actually frighten the person and cause them grief. Instead stick with the more relaxing methods and try to keep calm.

Lastly, if none of these methods work, your condition could be more serious that you think. It is important for your diaphragm to operate properly so if the hiccups do not stop, you need to see a medical professional. Only a professional can diagnosis the cause and help your specific case. Best case scenario they could prescribe you with something to relax the body, and worst case scenario they may need to perform surgery to deactivate the phrenic nerve. Thankfully, this is rather uncommon.

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