We’ve all had the hiccups—and likely have tried to cure them by getting frightened by a willing friend/sibling or using some other technique we’ve learned growing up. (For instance, this editor’s mom says to drink water while looking up at the ceiling.) But what really cures the hiccups, and what the heck causes them? To find out, we turned to naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist Ralph Esposito.
“Hiccups still appear to be a medical mystery but we suspect it may be a dysfunction of two major nerves, the vagus and phrenic nerves,” Esposito tells Byrdie. “Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, suspected hiccups were caused by liver inflammation. In fact, traditional Chinese medicine, which is one of the most ancient forms of medicine, considers hiccups to be a liver dysfunction. Perhaps the father of medicine and the ancient Chinese medical experts were on to something.”
Want to know how to get rid of your hiccups immediately? Ahead, find three tried-and-true tips from Esposito and gastroenterologist Dr. Ellen Stein.
Meet the Expert
Dr. Ellen Stein, MD, FACG, is an associate professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital Department of Gastroenterology. Her expertise is in chest pain, digestive disorders, heartburn, and hiccups, among other medical conditions.
Press This Spot on the Back of Your Middle Finger
“One of my best treatments for hiccups is acupuncture or acupressure,” says Esposito of the immediate cure. His go-to? A point called zhong kui, which he explains translates to “back of the middle finger.” As he explains, “It is located on the proximal interphalangeal joint (the first joint after your middle finger knuckle). Press on this firmly for about five minutes on and off for relief.”
Try This Deep-Breathing Technique
"Hiccups are caused when the diaphragm is out of synch with breathing," says Stein. The best trick, she says, is to utilize what's called the diaphragmatic technique. "Make sure the belly goes out when breathing in," Stein explains, "and make sure the belly goes in when breathing out."
Esposito breaks down the technique as "5-4-7:" breathe in for five seconds, hold it for four seconds, and breathe out for seven seconds. “This helps calm the autonomic nervous system and helps calm down the vagus nerve.”
Press and Hold This Pressure Point Below Your Wrist
Another acupuncture pressure point to relieve the hiccups is P6, which is located three fingers’ width below the wrist in the middle of your arm. “Press on this for a few minutes on each arm,” Esposito suggests. Make note: This pressure point also relieves seasickness and nausea.