03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How To Cure The Hiccups!

Drink from the far side of a glass of water. Eat a
spoonful of sugar. Get someone to scare you. Then pour the sugar water on your
friend’s head, and come here to stop your hiccups.  

Hiccups are caused by a spasm of the diaphragm, the
breathing muscle that runs across the base of your ribcage like a trampoline.
So, to stop the hiccups you have to get the muscle to relax. You can cure them
in one deep breath. Here’s how:

Take a relaxed exhale. Then inhale, as deeply as you can. Feel the bottom ribs lifting, and the side ribs expanding. Keep inhaling; lift and arch the chest, and gently turn the neck to one side. Hold there, and hold the breath. If there’s any space, sip in a little more air. Hold the breath until a few hiccups would have passed. Then relax and breathe slowly. Your hiccups are gone.

What’s going on here? You’re lengthening and
expanding all your breathing muscles, leaving nowhere for the spasm to go.
You’re stretching out your hiccups.

The breathing muscles run throughout your torso. In order of importance, they are:

  1. your diaphragm, the primary mover, a mushroom-shaped dome at the base of your ribs
  2. your intercostals (external and internal), which connect your ribs
  3. your sternocleidomastoid, at the front of your neck, and your scalenes, at the sides of your neck

Here’a great animation of your diaphragm. This
muscle cuts our body literally in half, and yet a lot of people don’t even know
it exists!

(For more information on your breathing muscles, check out the anatomy classes and
teachers at the Breathing Project. Understanding and adapting your breathing can help asthma, anxiety, depression, even chronic pain.)

So maybe now you can visualize a hiccup. The pink dome would be spasming up and in. And once you can visualize a system, you can better feel and address it.

The hiccup stretch has worked for me each and every time I’ve tried it. Let me know if it works for you!