Is your Diaphragm contributing to your back/neck pain?

Is your Diaphragm contributing to your back/neck pain?

The diaphragm is a large dome shaped fibromuscular sheet that separates the thorax from the abdomen. It links the upper part of our body to the lower part and most of us know that it is a major muscle of respiration.

Apart from this, it also has a stabilization role as it works in conjunction with the deep core muscles (such as your deep abdominals, deep lower back muscles and the pelvic floor muscles) to provide postural control as well as managing intraabdominal pressure. The diaphragm is often dysfunctional in people with chronic lower back pain and neck pain.

So what does that actually mean?

If you have lower back pain, you may not be breathing correctly with your diaphragm.

If you have neck pain, you may be overusing your accessory muscles during respiration.

Very often you might have difficulty activating your core and find that you are bracing and splinting your abdomen. This can also cause an erratic breathing pattern or an unusually high respiratory rate whilst exercising. You may also find that you are breathing apically which is characterized by excessive movement of the chest and shoulders, and minimal movement of the abdomen whilst inhaling. Apical breathing very often leads to neck pain too as these muscles are being overworked in the breathing process.

iStock 1355081545 4 Optimal Clinic

When you breathe in, your diaphragm should flatten out and move down (descend), which causes your stomach to rise and the ribs to open out to the side. This allows a lot of air to enter the lungs.

If you have an inverted breathing pattern, you will notice that when you breathe in, your stomach hollows/gets sucked in and your chest rises. This means your diaphragm is not descending and is therefore reducing your lung volume, possibly making you feel breathless.  This also prevents your ribs from expanding, and instead forces your neck muscles to work hard at lifting the ribs for breathing. It also has an effect your core’s ability to create postural control and optimize pelvic floor function, because the pressure in your abdominal cannister is not being sufficiently controlled.

We may not always know if the back pain caused the breathing dysfunction, or the breathing dysfunction caused the back pain. Either way, when getting treatment for your back or neck, ask your therapist to check your breathing pattern too!

If you are struggling with back/neck pain, please call/WhatsApp the clinic on 0504233302 and book an appointment with Marion.

Marion Young


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Our blog aims to educate and inform our readers on a wide range of topics related to physiotherapy, osteopathy and much more – including the latest treatment techniques, tips for injury prevention, and advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We also provide updates on the latest research and developments in the field, so you can stay up-to-date on the latest trends and advancements.

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