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Hiccups are caused by a sudden contraction of the diaphragm, an important muscle located at the bottom of the chest, just above the stomach, which is mainly responsible for breathing movements. Under normal circumstances, our diaphragm does not contract automatically, but if you eat too much, or if you overwork your body, your diaphragm can become very active, which can lead to hiccups.
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When we breathe in, the lungs do not expand directly: they expand solely because we expand the volume of the chest cavity. Because the lungs “stick” to the inside of the chest cavity, they expand when the chest cavity expands. The diaphragm is the muscle that drives this expansion. When hiccups occur, the diaphragm suddenly jerks, which allows air to enter the lungs. At the same time, the vocal folds (the small piece of the throat that bulges out at the top and is part of the larynx) suddenly close. This sudden closure cuts off the air and causes hiccups.
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Hiccups do not begin in the muscles of the diaphragm itself, but in the nerves that are located in the diaphragm – the phrenic nerve. Hiccups are common during meals because the nerves in the stomach are connected to the respiratory nerves. But hiccups can happen at any time.
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There are various ways to cure hiccups, such as standing up straight and tilting your head back to drink a large glass of water; raising your arms and holding your breath; covering your ears with your fingers and drinking water; having someone give you a sudden shock, and of course many other methods. It’s hard to say if these methods work, but after you try all these complicated methods, you’ll probably stop hiccuping!