Right now, as you start reading this article, pay attention to your breathing. Are you breathing more in your abdomen or more in your chest? If you are unsure, place one hand on your stomach and the other hand on your chest. Which hand is moving more? If you are breathing more in your chest, your diaphragm muscle is not working properly.
Functions of The Diaphragm
The diaphragm has two functions. One is breathing and the other is core stabilization, which we will discuss in Part 2. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped, paper thin muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. It attaches to the bottom of the lungs and its outer edges attach to the lowest ribs and spine. When we inhale, the muscle contracts and pulls downward toward the abdomen causing it to expand outward. This creates a negative vacuum in the lungs and they fill with air. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes, it moves back up and we let air out.
Under normal conditions, the entire diaphragm muscle is involved in respiration and the entire abdomen expands 360 degrees like a balloon filling with air. Our bodies are getting sufficient oxygen and all is well.
Consequences of a Dysfunctional Diaphragm
It is very common for the diaphragm to become dysfunctional and not work properly. This can be due to physical or emotional trauma, pain, etc. Portions of the muscle become “shut down” and it does not pull down like it did before. The body compensates by using other muscles to lift the chest up in order to get oxygen. Neck and shoulder muscles such as the trapezius, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, pectorals and others become overused, tight and painful. Chest breathing can have some painful consequences, including neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and back pain.
The Art of Breathing and Core Stabilization
On October 18th, we will be doing an exercise class called The Art of Breathing and Core Stabilization at Equilibrium Personal Training Studio in Palatine. Join us for a fun and exciting class to learn if your diaphragm is working properly. We will also be teaching the most effective exercises to correct and improve breathing and core strength. Details and Signup