Are Hiccups A Pain in the Ass?
Well, it seems they aren’t after all. What I’m about to tell you will make you laugh … at least, it made me laugh. I had to do more research to make sure that what I was reading was indeed true. As it turns out, it is. Well, according to the Internet it is.
I have not tested the theory myself. Ahem!
Dr. Francis M. Fesmire came up with one of the craziest hiccup cures you will ever hear about. He even won an IgNobel Prize for it. What’s an IgNobel Prize, you ask? It’s an American spoof of the Nobel Prizes. They are given each year for 10 unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The prizes “honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.”
But, before I reveal what this miracle cure is, I thought I’d give you the lowdown on what hiccups actually are and how they happen.
Health class 101: Hiccups are essentially a series of involuntary spasms of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle just below your lungs, above your abdominal area, which regulates your breathing. When your diaphragm contracts, your lungs take in oxygen. When your diaphragm relaxes, your lungs release carbon dioxide. (But you knew this already, right?)
When the diaphragm contracts out of rhythm it causes hiccups. Every diaphragm spasm makes the larynx and vocal cords close suddenly, causing a sudden rush of air into the lungs. Your body reacts with a gasp, which makes the “hiccup” sound. These spasms are involuntary so you can’t tell your brain to stop.
Advanced Health class: A lot of muscles in your body have to fire off during a hiccup and one nerve, called the vagus nerve, is really affected. The vagus nerve starts in the brain. Then leaving the head, it runs down into the chest cavity (where it is involved with the lungs and heart) and into the abdominal cavity from the very top, near the mouth, to the very bottom. The vagus nerve manages swallowing and breathing, and it even makes the vocal cords work.
The vagus nerve comes into this hiccup reflex control center and another nerve leaves it. Electrical impulses travel down this second nerve to the diaphragm and tell it to contract, which causes you to inhale. Other electrical impulses go to the muscles that are involved in exhaling, turning them off. A fraction of a second after the air starts flowing in, an electrical signal is sent to the vocal cords, making them snap shut and out pops the hiccup!
Okay, now that we have the health lessons out of the way we can move on. Watch out, Bill Nye the Science Guy!
Anyway, a relatively reliable cure for hiccups is to overstimulate the vagus nerve, which will block other signals to the vocal cords. This is where the clever Dr. Fensmire comes into the picture.
Dr. Fesmire read a paper on how to stop paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, which occurs when the heart accelerates up to 200 beats per minute, causing shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness, loss of consciousness, etc. Now since both the heart and hiccups are affected by the vagus nerve, Dr. Fesmire figured that if it worked for the heart, it might work for hiccups.
The method? <insert drum roll here>
Digital rectal massage.
Yep, you heard that correctly. In other words, rubbing your hiney hole to stop your hiccups!
Believe it or not, this doc says it works. How? In his words, “The rectum is supplied with an abundance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, and the digital rectal massage would lead to increased vagal tone and potential termination of hiccups”.
There you have it folks. So see, hiccups aren’t really a “pain” in the ass, because now you know your ass can cure ‘em!
Special thanks once again to Lissa St. Clair from The Psychotic Scrivener for her guest post and for letting us know why hiccups aren’t really a pain in the ass! Or how to tickle our own asses. Whichever.
Note from Blog Owner: TMI, I know! You’re welcome! By the way, I can’t wait to see what critters roll up on this blog after doing a search for, “Digital rectal massage.” I’ll keep you posted.