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Persistent Case of Hiccups May Be Treated with a Big Hug

Update Date: Feb 26, 2013 01:27 PM EST

The hiccups: everyone knows them, dislikes having them and no one knows conclusively why they happen. Normally, they are viewed with amusement. However, for one 72-year-old man in the United Kingdom, the hiccups were anything but a joke. Ben Lamberton suffered from the hiccups, roughly every 15 seconds, for 10 whole days. The way that they were cured may surprise you.

One day, the man, a tour guide at the Royal Botanic Gardens in London, started hiccupping - and could not stop. According to the Daily Mail, the hiccups came every 15 seconds, with occasional 20-minute respites. None of the normal remedies, like holding his breath or drinking water, helped. Lamberton was relegated to the spare bedroom, so as to not disturb his wife, and could not even go to work because of the hiccups. Because Lamberton was still able to eat, drink and talk, his condition garnered giggles, and a visit to a doctor warranted a swift proclamation that there was nothing medically wrong with him.

In fact, chronic hiccups, like that of Mr. Lamberton, can be a sign of something wrong. Hiccups are caused by an involuntary contraction of the diaphragm - though scientists are still not sure about what causes that. They can be triggered by a wide variety of causes, like smoking, eating too quickly or sudden changes in temperature. In the short-term, they can be cured by breathing into a paper bag, drinking water or eating crushed ice, which would simulate the vagus nerve, a connection from the abdomen to the base of the skull.

Chronic hiccups can be caused by serious conditions, like a stroke, multiple sclerosis or brain injuries. They have also been documented as having been caused by tumors, in extremely rare cases.

Fortunately for Mr. Lamberton, his bout with the hiccups was not caused by anything as severe as those conditions. It appears that the muscle controlling the reflex simply broke.

His case was concluded with a visit to a physiotherapist. She gave him what amounted to a bear hug: a tight squeeze in the same way that someone might perform the Heimlich maneuver. The technique stopped Lamberton's hiccups immediately.

In 2003, Robert Smith came down with a case of the hiccups that lasted for three years, prompting him to lose 50 pounds over the ordeal. His hiccups only ended when doctors placed an implant in his body, The New York Times reports.

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