Medically, hiccups (or hiccoughs) are spasms of the diaphragm muscle. This muscle usually assists in breathing by stretching or squeezing the lungs, along with the ribcage muscles.

When the diaphragm muscle seizes, it stretches or squeezes the lungs suddenly, causing mild to sharp pain. Once it has seized, it upsets the normal breathing pattern.

Any muscle will spasm when it is not getting proper perfusion of oxygen. Since a hiccup upsets the breathing pattern, it often falls into a feedback loop, sustaining the conditions that caused them to start.

All the wives' tales to cure hiccups seem to revolve around

  • gulping in breath, or
  • holding your breath, or
  • gasping for breath.
  • Breathing in a paper or plastic bag is not recommended for hyperventilation or hiccups; forcing a lack of oxygen by breathing from a bag can be dangerous to the brain.

    To cure hiccups: stretch and perfuse your diaphragm. Breathe deeply and slowly, holding air in long enough to let the lungs convey oxygen into your bloodstream. Repeat.

    To cure hyperventilation: Breathe slowly, remain calm. Don't restrict airflow, but don't breathe overly deeply either. Relax.