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Take a Breath

I’ve noticed a familiar problem of late and I think it’s common enough that it’s worth writing about. The presenting symptoms are pain in upper part of the lower back that radiates around one side or both to the front at the bottom of the rib cage. Stretching and moving doesn’t seem to help and it is sometimes accompanied by a feeling of not being able to fully fill your lungs. The problem can be persistent and can get quite severe. Some have even had extensive medical testing with nothing showing up.


The culprit is this scenario in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a big dome shaped muscle that separates your chest cavity from your abdomen and functions in breathing. When the diaphragm is working properly, it contracts and flattens as you breathe in, thereby drawing air into the lower reaches of your lungs where the richest supply of blood vessels reside. But being a muscle, it can get knots and restrictions in it, especially when it’s used inappropriately.

There are two scenarios where the diaphragm can get messed up. The first is lower back trouble. When the lower back is weak it still requires stability. To get this stability, the body recruits the diaphragm. The increased tone required to stabilize that lower back make the diaphragm susceptible to cramps and spasms.

The second issue is just plain stress. When the burdens of life begin to overwhelm us we tend to breathe more shallow and build more muscle tension. This also predisposes the diaphragm to problems.

How do we take care of this problem? The biggest challenge is recognizing it. My experience is that this problem is a mystery to many health care providers. Once it’s recognized though, care is straight forward, depending upon the cause. Step one is to learn how to breathe properly again. And step two is to resolve the lower back issue or help with stress management. There are a few other helpful tricks but that is the gist of it.

To summarize then, the key feature of diaphragm trouble is a band of tightness or pain around the bottom of your ribs. Breathing well and resolving the underlying problems will get you back on track.


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