Hiccups: Causes and Cures

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Hiccups result from a wide variety of conditions that act on the supraspinal hiccup center or that stimulate or disinhibit the limbs of its reflex arc. While scores of hiccup remedies have been reported over the centuries, no single “cure” stands out as being the most effective. Measures that stimulate the uvula or pharynx or disrupt diaphragmatic (respiratory) rhythm are simple to use and often help to speed the end of a bout of otherwise benign, self-limited hiccups. Such manuenvers may also terminate persistent hiccups. Drug therapy usually becomes necessary for more intractable hiccups; chlorpromazine and metoclopramide being two of the most widely employed agents for this purpose. Physical disruption of the phrenic nerve, hypnosis, and acupuncture are other modes of therapy that have been used in severe cases. Because so many reports of hiccup “cures” are based on anecdotal experience rather than controlled clinical studies, I review the available treatments to provide a rational approach for the management of hiccups.

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