Diaphragm Function from an Osteopathic Perspective

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal cavity. It plays a crucial role in respiration (the main breathing muscle) and also has an impact on the health of the surrounding structures. Osteopaths view the diaphragm as a vital part of the body’s structure and function, and believe that it can contribute to a variety of health issues when not functioning properly.

From an osteopathic perspective, the diaphragm is viewed as a key player in the body’s structural alignment. It attaches to the lower ribs, sternum, and lumbar vertebrae, and its contraction helps to create negative pressure in the thoracic cavity, allowing air to be drawn into the lungs. Additionally, the diaphragm is intimately connected to the spine, pelvis, and surrounding fascia, which means that any dysfunction in these areas can impact the functioning of the diaphragm.

One common issue that osteopaths see in relation to the diaphragm is dysfunction in the form of restriction or tightness. This can occur due to a variety of factors, such as poor posture, trauma, or chronic stress. When the diaphragm is restricted, it can impede its ability to move freely during breathing, leading to shallow breathing patterns (upper rib breathing) and decreased oxygenation of the body’s tissues. This, in turn, can contribute to a host of health issues such as fatigue, headaches, neck and shoulder tension, and digestive problems.

The diaphragm is intimately connected to the digestive system. When the diaphragm is restricted, it can impede the proper functioning of the digestive organs, leading to issues such as bloating, constipation, and acid reflux. Similarly, the diaphragm plays a role in the body’s ability to eliminate toxins through the lymphatic system. It basically acts like a large pump for the body and dysfunction in the diaphragm can impede lymphatic flow, leading to a buildup of toxins and a compromised immune system.

Osteopaths also recognize that the diaphragm can be impacted by issues in the surrounding structures. For example, tightness in the muscles of the back or pelvis can lead to a pull on the diaphragm, causing it to become restricted. Similarly, restriction in the fascia of the abdomen can impact the diaphragm’s ability to move freely during breathing. Osteopaths use a variety of techniques, including soft tissue manipulation, stretching, and joint mobilization, to help restore proper function to the diaphragm and surrounding structures.

Overall, the diaphragm plays a critical role in the body’s overall health and functioning. Osteopaths recognize the importance of this muscle and its impact on the surrounding structures. By addressing dysfunction in the diaphragm and surrounding areas, osteopaths can help to restore proper function and promote optimal health throughout the body. If you are experiencing any symptoms related to the diaphragm or breathing, consider consulting with an osteopath today for an evaluation and appropriate treatment plan.


Written by: Daniel Stasiuk