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Fixing the Hick-Up Muscle

Fixing the Hick-Up Muscle
Diaphragm Fixing the "Hiccup Muscle": Acid Reflux & Hiatal Hernias, Too?

While each skeletal muscle is certainly important, there is one we literally CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT ... THE DIAPHRAGM!

From breathing difficulties to hiccups to heartburn, dysfunction of the Diaphragm is important to recognize and to correct, so please pass this information on ...


The Diaphragm covers the bottom of the rib cage and is responsible for our ability to breathe. In order to oxygenate our bodies fully, it flattens downward into a plate shape when we inhale, pulling liters of fresh oxygen rich air into the lungs. Then it bulges upward into an umbrella shape when we exhale to push used oxygen poor air out of the lungs.

Trigger Points in the Diaphragm can prevent this full expansion, limiting our ability to breathe fully!

One sign that the Diaphragm is irritated is the recurrence of little jerky contractions or spasms we call "hiccups", thereby earning the nickname "The Hiccup Muscle." Although not usually dangerous, Hiccups can be quite annoying, and may be the first indication that your Diaphragm needs attention. We'll learn a neat Trigger Point Hiccup Remedy below.


The Diaphragm also separates the abdominal cavity from the chest cavity ... the lungs stay above the Diaphragm in the chest and the intestines stay below the Diaphragm in the abdomen ...

There is an important hole in the center of the Diaphragm called a "Hiatus" for the Esophagus to pass through to connect the stomach to the mouth. In some cases, this Hiatus becomes loose, allowing the upper part of the stomach to slip through, a situation called "Hiatal Hernia".

When this hernia occurs, as shown in the diagram, the top of the stomach is pinched in the Diaphragm's hiatus. This can lead to a number of symptoms, including premature fullness when eating, a tight feeling in the stomach, belching, and pain around the solar plexus.

The most aggravating symptom is acid reflux. When the top of the stomach is pinched, it has difficulty closing its sphincter valve. This sphincter is there to prevent the strong acid in the stomach from splashing up and burning the esophagus. As a result, stomach acid refluxes into the esophagus that can cause ulcers, scarring, even cancer of the esophagus, not to mention heartburn pain and tooth decay if the acid reaches the mouth.

All these symptoms can disappear when proper tone is restored to the Diaphragm and the stomach is pulled back down out of the hiatus! The simple techniques shown below are very useful for anyone to learn. They can greatly relieve pain and help prevent illness down the road. As always, please consult your physician if you are experiencing any symptoms in your stomach or difficulty breathing to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

*The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition and does not substitute for a thorough evaluation by a medical professional. Please consult your physician to determine whether these self-care tips are appropriate for you.
Tests for Diaphragm Function


When you take a deep breath in, your rib cage should expand fully and equally on both sides. To perform this test, stand or sit facing a mirror. Place both hands over the rib cage as shown, with the middle fingers touching over the solar plexus area. Now take several deep breaths in and out and watch your hands move as the rib cage expands and contracts.

Breath Neutral Deep Breath In (Not Passing - Right)

Passing means your hands should separate equally on both sides, leaving a gap a couple finger widths apart. Not Passing is indicated by one or both hands not separating fully. In the example above, the right side does not expand as fully as the left.


To evaluate the Diaphragm manually, sit and lean forward or lie on your back with knees bent to slacken the abdominal muscles. Then, press your fingers up and behind the ribs on both sides (as shown), making sure you are on the underside of the ribs and not pressing down on any organ tissue. As always, feel for taut bands of muscle and tender spots (trigger points).

Then check for Hiatal Hernia by pushing with both hands up on the Underside of the stomach (as shown). The stomach is located just to the left of center beneath the left rib cage. If there is pain upon pushing the stomach up into the Diaphragm, it might indicate that the stomach is pressing up against or slipping slightly through the Hiatus.

3 Step Trigger Point Self-Care for the Diaphragm

You can improve the function of your Diaphragm with simple Trigger Point techniques!

STEP 1: Diaphragm Trigger Point Compression

Assume the same position as you did for palpation - sit leaning forward - or lie on your back with your knees bent to put slack in the abdominal muscles. Press up under the ribs and outward to compress the edges of the Diaphragm and stretch the muscle fibers. Wherever you find a tender spot or taut band, press to tolerance and hold for two full breaths. The breaths help stretch the Diaphragm further.

HICCUP REMEDY: To eliminate an episode of hiccups, feel along the front lower rib cage and press up and under into the Diaphragm muscle. When a hiccup occurs, you will feel a strong contraction in the Diaphragm. Notice the rhythm of the contractions. Anticipate the next hiccup and just as it starts press up firmly enough to inhibit the contraction. Let up pressure when the hiccup contraction begins to dissipate. You many need to repeat several contractions to completely eliminate the episode of hiccups.

STEP 2: STOMACH / ESOPHAGUS STRETCH (good for Hiatal Hernia)

To relieve pressure from the stomach pressing up into the Diaphragm, we are going to stretch the stomach downward away from the rib cage. Start by pressing the fingers up under the ribs on the left center of the rib cage (on top of the stomach) while inhaling. The breath in will flatten the Diaphragm and push the stomach downward so you can reach on top of it more easily.

Then, firmly press downward on top of the stomach and exhale rapidly and fully. This rapid breath out will pull the Diaphragm up into the rib cage as you are holding the stomach downward and away from it. Repeat several times until you feel you have adequately stretched to create some space between the stomach and the Diaphragm.

STEP 3: Sternum Massage (Sternalis Muscle)

The final step is a simple massage and compression of any tender spots on your Sternum. Circular motions with both hands as shown in the picture is effective. Also, slower compression with the fingers or other self-care tool works well. Painful areas over the Sternum have been associated with inhibition of the Diaphragm, perhaps due a relationship between the Sternalis Muscle (along the front and sides of the Sternum) and the Diaphragm. Clinically, we have seen that relieving these tender spots on the Sternum can significantly help restore healthy tone of this important life-giving muscle.

FINAL NOTE: There is one last clinical correlation that is worth noting when we speak of the Diaphragm. Stress and anxiety and close-heartedness are associated with tight shallow breathing, whereas peace, gratitude and open-heartedness are associated with relaxed deep breathing. Perhaps one of the best things you can do to keep your Diaphragm functioning well is to remain accepting and grateful for life and to think of acts of kindness that you would enjoy doing for someone. A good practice of breathing exercises, such as those found in Hatha Yoga, can be very helpful, as well!

You can repeat the above steps within comfort a couple times per day and take note of how your breathing deepens and any symptoms of Hiatal Hernia are relieved. Please make sure to check with your trigger point specialist for any assistance you require. Also, remember to please have any symptoms checked out by the appropriate medical professional.

Pass along this issue of Muculoskeletal Update along to anyone who needs to breath more fully!

Happy Self-Care!
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