The Wonder of the Diaphragm

For those who read my previous article, time to redeem the diaphragm and celebrate what it can do! I would just like to point out that a google search reminded me to tell you all I’m referring to the thoracic muscle and not the contraceptive method or any other diaphragms in the human body that do exist but are not so commonly known. Thought that was worth mentioning for clarity, just in case.

The thoracic diaphragm muscle is a thin sheet which runs pretty much through your middle separating out your thoracic cavity and your abdominal one. In other words, it’s keeps the lungs and heart away from the liver, stomach and digestive bits and bobs. In a post mortem is a fleshy bit that is cut through and detached from all manner of places. In life it has some wonderful purposes.

When you breathe, it’s not your lungs that do all of the work. Your diaphragm moves with your breaths creating a vacuum to suck air in and it moves to push it back out again. This also makes me think of when I used to do yoga, those of you who have also taken part in yoga will know what I’m talking about. That ‘belly breathing’ technique which calms you right down is using the diaphragm to move your organs about and make space for that breath. Thanks diaphragm for helping us chill out while lying on a hall floor somewhere having paid £7.50 for the pleasure.

As well as encouraging air in and out of our bodies, the diaphragm takes part in vomiting, urinating, excretion and also in childbirth. Oh and don’t forget when you get hiccups that’s your diaphragm in spasm. It jerks and causes your vocal chords to shut making that well known sound. I, for one, get hiccups oddly regularly and always loudly. I quite enjoyed playing the sound of a hiccup from Wikipedia over and over, and if you would too you can find it here.

The other thing I would like to mention is the slightly horrid fact you can herniate your diaphragm. Although it’s a nicer, hidden and less problematic hernia than some of the others. A hiatus hernia occurs when the stomach pokes through near to where the oesophagus enters the abdominal cavity via the diaphragm. This can happen in a few different ways and will often give no symptoms or cause the person any problems. Any bad symptoms you may experience with a hiatus hernia could include heartburn, acid reflux or difficulty eating and drinking. I’ve not yet seen a hernia of this sort, I’ve seen multiple others and that’s for another article one day, but I do know someone with this type of hernia! These can be controlled by changing lifestyle habits and rarely require surgery, good to know. More about these can be found at NHS choices here.

So there you have it, the wonderful thoracic diaphragm in short. Please don’t take it for granted that you have this little thin muscle working hard away inside you. Any comments, questions or feedback welcome! Thank you for reading!

MG x

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