We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

How does the Diaphragm Work?

By Shelby Miller
Updated Mar 03, 2024
Our promise to you
The Health Board is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At The Health Board, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The diaphragm, also known as the thoracic diaphragm as a nod to the fact that humans also have another muscle with a similar name, is a layer of muscle positioned within and across the bottom of the rib cage. Shaped similarly to an open parachute, it separates the thoracic cavity of the rib cage, in which the heart and lungs are situated, from the cavity in the abdomen that houses the stomach, liver, and other organs. It also functions to control breathing, as its contraction and relaxation are what allow air to be drawn into the lungs and then expelled, respectively.

Convex as the bottom wall of the thoracic cavity and concave as the ceiling of the abdominal cavity, this muscle originates in several locations. The top starts on the xiphoid process at the tip of the sternum, or breastbone. From the lower six ribs arises the middle portion, while the lower portion originates on both the lumbar vertebrae of the spine as well as on the lumbocostal arch, the rim of the opening in the diaphragm, through which the psoas major, a hip flexor muscle, passes. It should be noted that the this muscle has several holes in it at points where vertical structures, including the spine, the psoas major and quadratus lumborum muscles, the esophagus, and several major arteries pass through.

This muscle is most significant for its role in helping humans breathe. Whereas the abdominals, particularly the transverse abdominus muscle, assist in exhalation by placing pressure on the thoracic cavity, the diaphragm makes inhalation possible. To do this, it contracts, which reduces pressure on the thoracic cavity and allows the lungs to expand. This produces suction, which further allows air to be drawn in. This relationship between the two muscle groups, with the abdominals opposing the action of the diaphragm, is known in anatomy as antagonistic.

Another role of the muscle is related to its function in the abdominal cavity. As intra-thoracic pressure is reduced during diaphragmatic contraction, pressure in the abdominal cavity is subsequently increased. Therefore, this muscle contracts to increase this intra-abdominal pressure during activities like vomiting, urination, and defecation. Similarly, it places pressure on the esophagus during contraction, which helps to prevent stomach acid from traveling back upward into the thoracic region of the esophagus, a condition known as acid reflux. It is also responsible for hiccups, which are caused by spasms in the muscle, often the result of eating too quickly.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By shmiller — On Mar 09, 2011

This is very true! Singing is a great example of how the diaphragm and abdominals work against one another during breathing, with the diaphragm contracting to breathw in deeply and the abs contracting to forcibly push air out, as in holding a long note. And yes, breathing properly from the diaphragm helps to both get more oxygen into the body's tissues (thereby improving energy) and strengthen the abs. Thanks for your comment!

By abundancer — On Mar 05, 2011

Good article on the diaphragm. When I was in choir in high school, our teacher always talked about diaphragm breathing.

I never understood what he meant until he had us put our hands on our stomach while breathing deep and singing at the same time. It really works, I never got out of breath while breathing from the diaphragm and singing.

Another benefit I noticed was that if I consistently breath from my diaphragm, I have more energy and my stomach muscles tightened up!

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

The Health Board, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.