When You Get The Hiccups, Here's What's Really Happening

If you've ever had a friend or sibling try to scare you out of the hiccups, tell them that they don't know boo. A better way to stop hiccupping is to pull your knees into your chest, according to Ehsan Ali, M.D., a Beverly Hills physician trained in internal medicine (via Insider).

No, this is not a way to work in more yoga. Rather, it tackles what happens to your body when you get the hiccups, Ali told Insider. Normally when you breathe, your diaphragm — a muscular structure that separates your chest and abdomen — contracts and expands. The diaphragm's movement also plays an important part in "expulsive actions" such as crying, vomiting, sneezing, and coughing (via Britannica).

When you get the hiccups, the diaphragm has an "unintentional movement," or a spasm, the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains (via MedlinePlus). But the spasm isn't your body's only involuntary action during the hiccups. Your vocal cords close during the spasm, producing that distinctive hiccupping sound.

Tuck your knees to your chest or sip water to quiet hiccups

Quiet your hiccups by tending to your diaphragm. Try pulling your knees to your chest, which compresses the diaphragm and may stop its spasms, Ali told Insider. He also recommends stimulating the nasopharynx — the area at the back of your throat, which is connected to your respiratory system — to nudge the diaphragm back to normal. Try pulling on your tongue, gargling with water, or sipping cold water. "The best thing to do is avoid things, foods, and drinks that you know will cause hiccups," Ali said.

Garden-variety hiccups can be annoying but harmless and often pass within minutes. Their most common causes include (via The Mayo Clinic): swallowing air while eating or laughing, excitement or emotional stress, drinking carbonated beverages, eating too much, or drinking too much alcohol.

If your hiccups are painful, frequent, or last longer than 48 hours, consult your doctor right away. Hiccups can be a symptom of a more serious condition affecting the diaphragm, such as gastroesophageal reflux, laryngitis, a neck tumor or cyst, meningitis, or encephalitis.