Strange Cures

Some people will go to any lengths to rid themselves of hiccups. In the west of Ireland, a favourite remedy for hiccups is to distract the patient by getting them to visualise a green cow grazing in a blue field. One doctor in the US has found a unique way to terminate intractable hiccups.

“Hiccups can be a distressing symptom, especially when it lasts for some time. The term intractable is used for hiccups that have lasted for a month or more. Hiccups occur when the diaphragm goes into spasm, followed by a quick and noisy closing of the glottis. The diaphragm is the large muscle (shaped like and upturned sauces) that separates the chest from the abdomen; the glottis is the opening between the vocal cords that closes when we are eating to stop food entering the lungs. There is some evidence for the existence of a “hiccup centre” in the lower part of the brain. The vagus nerve, which controls the opening and closing of the glottis, is linked to it, as is the phrenic nerve which carries signals to and from the diaphragm.

Most bouts of hiccups have no obvious cause. They may be triggered by a combination of laughing, eating, drinking and talking. Occasionally, hot or irritating food is the culprit. Hiccups also occur post-operatively, probably due to irritation of the diaphragm, but they usually settle quickly. Persistent hiccups raises the possibility of a serious cause, such as brain tumour or stroke interfering directly with the hiccup centre in the brain.

No single drug treatment has been found to be effective, so a plethora of home and medical remedies have emerged over time. Probably the most popular is holding your breath while counting to 10 or breathing into a brown paper bag, both of which raise the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, which helps stop hiccups.

Stimulating the vagus nerve also helps. This is achieved by drinking water quickly or by swallowing dry bread or crushed ice. Gently pulling on the tongue or rubbing the eyeballs also introduces vagal stimulation. The pharyngeal nerve can be stimulated by drinking from the wrong side of the cup.”

A doctor in the US came up with an unusual solution when a patient of his did not respond to standard therapies. Aiming to stimulate the vagus nerve, he stuck his (gloved) finger up the patient’s rectum and gave the patient a digital rectal massage. To the doctor’s delight, the hiccups stopped and the doctor went on to publish a research paper on his cure, winning an award in the process.

I dunno what you think about this but I know I’d rather stick to my own home remedies. You’ve got to feel sorry for this guy though.

With thanks to Dr. Muiris Houston at The Irish Times for his informative article on hiccups.

10 Responses to Strange Cures

  1. Grannymar says:

    I know it is serious but the idea of the gloved hand… and the Dr’s delight started me laughing and I can’t stop πŸ˜†

    I am sober and have had no alcohol today. maybe I should head to bed.

  2. Baino says:

    OMG, that’d cure a multitude of conditions! My mother in law taught me to feel for my own pulse. I think the act of holding one’s breath while trying to find it, stills the diaphragm and stops the hiccups. It really works. Happy birthday too!

  3. Steph says:

    GM – did it tickle your fancy? πŸ˜‰ We can only hope that the patient was both amused AND relieved!

    This discovery resulted in the publication of a paper, “Termination of intractable hiccups with digital rectal massage” in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. It won an Ig Nobel award for science that “first makes you laugh and then makes you think”!

    Baino – Thanks! I never heard of the ‘pulse’ cure – it sounds much better than the custom of giving someone a shock or tickling them while not allowing them to laugh! Mind you, records show that one poor unfortunate individual lived with uninterrupted hiccups for more than 60 years so I guess he would’ve resorted to just about anything for relief!

  4. Grannymar says:

    Steph it sure did. I had a touch of the ‘Giddies’ last night.

    I realise it is not funny for anyone who suffers this condition and the idea of someone suffering for 60 years does not bear thinking about.

  5. I find kneeling in seza and practicing breathing exercises is the only thing that works for me anymore. But they always come back later in the day, I wonder why?

  6. Steph says:

    Hi there! TC

    Welcome to this blog. I had to google ‘seza’ to check you weren’t taking the piss – especially after Baino’s post today on farmyards πŸ˜€

    My father-in-law (now deceased), used to do a single very loud hiccup (gasp of breath) after he’d eaten a large meal. My poor daughter (aged eighteen) seems to have inherited this trait and we tease her mercilessly about it. Now that I think of it, she’s also inherited another funny trait. When she’s enjoying her food, her nose runs and she has to stop to blow it. Her Dad, Uncle, and Grandad all do/did exactly the same so you could say it runs in the family!

    How are your sinuses doing this week? Sounds like you had a fairly nasty dose. I like your description of the ‘bing’ factor when an antibiotic hits home. I refer to it as ‘the switch has been turned over’. Once you turn that corner, it’s past history as far as I’m concerned but my God, it’s miserable until that point is reached 😦

  7. Sinuses in much better order thank you. I’ll go back to cycling to work from tomorrow on I think.

  8. Steph says:

    Cheers! TC

    Glad to hear it. I’m a big fan of fresh air and exercise especially when my head is bad. Distraction is the name of the game!

  9. A birthday? When? Are we twins? Happy Birthday, Steph!

    Hmm, thanks for the new hiccup cure, but I think I’ll stick to my own version – drinking water backwards from a glass. Yes, you have to try it! πŸ˜‰

  10. Steph says:

    Hi! AV

    I’ve nothing to hide. Have a look at your May 17th post and you’ll find the answer. Incidentally, I’ve already got a twin brother but I’ve always wanted a sister πŸ˜€

    I got a lovely birthday surprise this year…

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