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Core strength refers to the dynamic and static strength of the central portion of the body. Core strength is essential to functioning well in...
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The diaphragm plays an essential role in the body, controlling breathing, maintaining posture, and assisting digestion. A healthy diaphragm is crucial to the body’s overall health and functioning. One can train and strengthen the diaphragm with breathing exercises.
The thoracic diaphragm, also called the diaphragm, is a large, dome-shaped muscle in the abdomen. It is the primary muscle of respiration - breathing - and is responsible for inhaling and exhaling.
Inspiration is the inward part of breathing, drawing air through the nose and mouth into the lungs.
As the diaphragm contracts, the rib cage lifts and pulls the lungs down, increasing their volume and creating negative pressure. This lift pulls air in so gas exchange can occur within the air sacs in the lungs.
Once the lungs have exchanged oxygen for carbon dioxide, that spent air must be exhaled by expiration.
The diaphragm relaxes, pushing upward, drawing the rib cage down and reducing the volume of the lungs, pushing CO2-dense air out through the nose and mouth.
While the diaphragm is the primary muscle involved in respiration, it is not the only one. The diaphragm coordinates with several other muscles voluntarily and automatically to perform breathing functions.
These are known as the accessory respiratory muscles, and they increase the volume of oxygen processed by the lungs. The pectoralis major, serratus anterior, and trapezius aid in expanding the chest cavity to force more air in.
The body will not function without breathing. The diaphragm is the primary muscle involved in the breathing process for both inhaling and exhaling.
Breathing is primarily controlled subconsciously by the autonomic nervous system—the respiratory rate controlled in the brain stem. The brain stem signals the diaphragm to relax and contract as oxygen needs dictate.
One can also control breathing rates manually. Lying lazily in bed has lower oxygen demands than running to catch the bus, but that doesn’t prevent one from voluntarily taking a deep breath.
The diaphragm is one of the body’s most active large muscles, regularly expanding and contracting throughout the lifespan.
During aerobic exercise, the body’s oxygen demands go up. That means more air needs to come in, so the diaphragm needs to work harder.
Regular aerobic exercise can strengthen the diaphragm, meaning more efficient breathing and a longer time to fatigue during vigorous aerobic exercise.
The diaphragm is vital in anaerobic exercise, even when the body doesn’t need extra air.
The diaphragm and abdominal wall muscles are largely responsible for “bracing” or building the intra-abdominal pressure needed to keep the core stiff and stable when needed, like during a heavy squat or cheerleading throw.
The diaphragm is located near the middle of the torso, separating the thoracic and abdominal cavities.
It forms the floor of the thoracic cavity and the roof of the abdominal cavity, attaching to the lower borders of the ribcage and sternum (breast bone) in the front, the spine in the back, and the costal cartilages (cartilages that connect the ribs) on the sides.
The diaphragm forms the border of the inferior thoracic aperture, closing off the opening between the abdominal and thoracic cavity.
The diaphragm’s muscle fibers run inwards, and its attachments converge toward the central tendon, which runs across and within the muscle but does not connect it to any bones. The fibrous pericardium surrounding the heart fuses with the central tendon just above the diaphragm.
The heart sits on the left half of the body within the thoracic cavity, just above the diaphragm. The stomach, liver, kidneys, and other vital abdominal organs sit below the inferior surface of the diaphragm in the abdominal cavity.
The diaphragm forms a border between the heart, lungs, and abdominal organs.
The diaphragm may be the most essential muscle in breathing, but like most muscles, it doesn’t work alone.
Straightening the back, lifting the chin, and fully expanding the lungs for a deep breath wouldn’t be possible without the work of the intercostal muscles of the ribs, the upper back and neck muscles, the chest, the obliques, and the abdominals.
On the front of the body, the diaphragm originates on a small cartilaginous extension of the breastbone called the xiphoid process.
Around the sides, its peripheral attachments meet inside the costal cartilages at the lower borders of the lower ribs, ribs 6-12. On the back of the body, the diaphragm attaches to the arcuate ligaments of lumbar vertebrae L1-L3 in the spine.
Due to its vital job in breathing, the diaphragm has its own specific blood and nervous supply system.
The phrenic nerve originates in the cervical spinal cord (C3-C5) and travels down the neck and chest to the diaphragm. The phrenic nerve splits and gives the diaphragm signals to contract and relax under automatic or manual control.
Blood is supplied primarily by the phrenic arteries, starting with the internal thoracic arteries, then branching to the musculophrenic and inferior phrenic arteries.
Veins throughout the muscle collect blood in the inferior vena cava and return it to the heart through an opening in the diaphragm, the caval opening, to repeat the oxygenation cycle.
The diaphragm separates the chest and abdominal cavities, but some things, like food and blood, still need to pass through. For that reason, several passages through the diaphragm exist. Each of these passages is known as a hiatus and serves a distinct purpose.
A healthy diaphragm is crucial for breathing and, therefore, critical for every other aspect of life.
Because of its role in breathing, issues or conditions with the diaphragm can cause severe symptoms and complications, including chest pain, difficulty breathing, uncontrollable hiccups, a distended stomach (stomach bulges), acid reflux, and more.
Keeping the diaphragm healthy with regular exercise and purposeful activity decreases the likelihood of a medical emergency. Beyond that, a healthy diaphragm supports healthy living.
There are some common disorders and conditions of the diaphragm with varying symptoms and severities. Diaphragm health should be a priority for everyone.
If one has concerns regarding their diaphragm, it is crucial to discuss them with a doctor immediately. Some common diaphragm conditions include:
The diaphragm can be strengthened and trained like all muscles with mindful exercise. Because its primary function is breathing, training for the diaphragm usually involves specific breath work.
Yes! The diaphragm can be trained through breathing exercises. A strong diaphragm is essential for respiratory health, as well as for athletic performance. Singers and wind instrument players stand to benefit from diaphragm training, too.
Most issues related to the diaphragm are caused or exacerbated by lifestyle factors associated with poor health. Smoking, obesity, heavy alcohol use, and a sedentary lifestyle are the most common conditions related to diaphragm problems.
The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from the use of the information provided