Why do we hiccup?

Why do we hiccup is a question facing many a new mum.

it's something that every mother should know about. It's a condition affecting predominantly infants. In adults it usually passes in a few minutes of its own accord, but in babies it is particularly exhausting and upsetting.

Why do we hiccup question mark.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 8th December, 2018.

The DIAPHRAGM is a very large muscle that separates the chest from the abdominal cavity. By contracting, its function is to lower the pressure in the lungs causing an intake of breath.

The diaphragm is innervated by the PHRENIC NERVE which arises from the C3-C4-C5 nerve roots. Students remember it by

"C3-4-5 keeps the diaphragm alive."

Why do we hiccup?

Why do we hiccup is something that chiropractic can treat and every mother should know about.

Should the Diaphragm abruptly contract, unlike its usual smooth pattern, a sudden inrush of air snaps the epiglottis (a little valve in the throat that protects the lungs from food and drink) closed, creating the hic.

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What causes this abrupt contraction?

There are many causes of this abrupt contraction. In the adult, it's usually over indulgence in food or drink. Putting it simply, gulping your food and drink down. It's a protective mechanism, so your dinner doesn't end up in your lungs!

The Phrenic nerve is not only motor to the Diaphragm. It's also sensory to structures in the chest cavity and the upper part of the abdomen. Why do we hiccup? Swallowing too fast may irritate the tissues supplied by the Phrenic nerve, resulting in a sensory bombardment of the motor nuclei of the Phrenic nerve, thus causing the hiccup reflex and the spasmodic contraction of the diaphragm. A hiccup.

In babies?

It is well accepted by anatomists that many parts of our primitive nervous system belong to what is known as the 'Reptilian and Amphibian' brain and spinal cord. They say that the hiccuping of infants, with their immature 'human' nervous system, but an intact Amphibian brain, mimics the way frogs gulp reflexly for air. A certain amount of why do we hiccup is, in babies, quite normal.



Baby Thijs starting hiccuping just a few days after he was born; about 50 to 60 times a minute during virtually all his waking hours. Exhausted and miserable as her child, Mrs Hoekstra brought her two and half month old son to me three weeks ago. Could chiropractic help?

Perhaps, Mrs Hoekstra, if he has a fixation in his lower neck. Lo and behold, hiccup cures.

Thijs was slightly better after the first treatment. After the second, he completely stopped hiccuping for six days, beginning again on the seventh day.

I'm as curious as you must be, to know how he is progressing after his third treatment. Complete hiccup cure or not, Thijs is dramatically better.

Subluxations of C3, 4 or 5 undoubtedly have a profound effect on the Phrenic nerve, and thus on the diaphragm, and chiropractic is one factor that should be taken into consideration when we are looking for hiccup relief for babies.

And in fact hiccup remedies in adults, though it's rarely a serious problem.

Here's the update; Mrs Hoekstra noted that Thijs hiccupped only three times in a whole week. She says he's much happier, moving far more, but continues to wake sometimes at 10pm and 2am for a good cry. The C5 fixation is almost normal, but a little stubborn guy at L5 is hanging in. I have discharged him for a month.

It's interesting that children respond so much more quickly to treatment. How is it possible that a two and a half month condition can respond so smartly?

Chiropractic and babies

The thought of a chiropractic manipulation of a tiny child's spine, and especially of his or her fragile neck, horrifies those who know nothing of how we adjust babies.

There is no manipulation as we would normally understand it, and the treatment is very gentle. I have yet to see a parent shocked. Mostly they don't even know it's happening. They think we are just touching their child.

There are many conditions for which there is some circumstantial and anecdotal evidence that Chiropractic may help. Researchers are busy testing these theories to see if they will stand up to the evaluation of solid science.

Very rarely tumours and kidney disease may be the cause of hiccuping.

Infantile colic

Infantile colic is a condition seen much more frequently in chiropractic help clinics since research confirmed that our care was more effective than medication in the treatment of this nasty condition; why do we hiccup is part of the syndrome.

Chiropractic Colic addresses the treatment of babies. Do you know what the "Rule of Three" is? It could well be connected to why do we hiccup. 

Colic affects 15 percent of babies.

Why do we hiccup? Can Chiropractic help? Why don't you ask Mrs Hoekstra. She's just had the first normal night's sleep in two months. She'll tell you.

Update: Nine months later: I've dicharged toddler Thijs. Seven consults in total. He's just taken his first steps, and will no doubt get more subluxations, but his mother now knows about the miracles that sometimes happen in the chiropractic clinic. Hiccup cures, reflux, regurgitation and in adults indigestion heartburn are all about the diaphragm.



Whilst in Chiropractic we are treating people all day long, often with serious problems, it's good to remember that laughter is the best Medicine, and it's good Chiropractic too.Here you might enjoy some laughs from TEDDYBEARS PICNIC, MORE DYSLEXIA and JUST FOR LAUGHS ...


  • Neck pain home page.
  • Tietze's syndrome causes breastbone pain and because of the diaphragm very frequently indigestion or GERD too.

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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