How A Man’s Hiccups Were Cured By Digital Rectal Massage

How A Man's Hiccups Were Cured By Digital Rectal Massage

As well as straws designed to draw in liquids more slowly, there are other effective cures for persistent hiccups. They range from a digital rectal massage, to having your eyeballs mashed by a doctor, to having an orgasm.

In 1990, a 60-year-old man developed hiccups after a nasogastric tube was fitted following his hospitalization for pancreatitis. The patient’s persistent hiccups went on for days, despite removing the tube and the efforts of the team to deal with them.

“Swallowing of a teaspoon of granulated sugar, stimulation of the posterior pharynx with a nasal catheter, Valsalva manoeuvre, carotid sinus massage and digital eyeball pressure were performed,” the team wrote in their case report, “but with no success to terminate the hiccups”.

A few things might stand out there, such as “digital eyeball pressure”, as questionable cures, but there was reasoning behind it.

“Intractable hiccups is an uncommon phenomenon probably mediated through the supraspinal brain stem centre with the afferent limb mediated by the vagus nerve,” the team explained. They had attempted several ways of stimulating the vagus nerve.

Two days and several medications after onset, the patient was still hiccupping. Fortunately for the patient, the doctor knew of a different way to get rid of their hiccups: a digital rectal massage. Following the massage, the patient’s hiccups stopped for several hours, then unfortunately returned once more. However, this doctor was not a quitter, damn it.

“Digital rectal massage was attempted again using a slow continuous circumferential motion and the hiccups were terminated again immediately.”

This team of doctors had the advantage of knowledge that this technique works. The first person to discover this medical tool or life hack – depending on how much you want to get rid of your hiccups – did not have that advantage.

Dr Francis Fesmire, while attempting to stimulate the vagus nerve of his patient, remembered reading about another patient whose racing heartbeat was slowed after receiving a rectal massage. He tried the same on his patient, and found that it worked.

Fesmire received an IgNobel prize for his case report, but told New Scientist there is a better way.

“An orgasm results in incredible stimulation of the vagus nerve,” he said. “From now on, I will be recommending sex – culminating with orgasm – as the cure-all for intractable hiccups.”

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