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What Happens When The Diaphragm Contracts

by Lyndon Langley
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What Happens When The Diaphragm Contracts

What Happens When The Diaphragm Contracts

“The diaphragm is like the bridge of a ship: it connects two different worlds.” -William Plomer, British author
Your diaphragm plays an important role throughout your life. It’s responsible for helping you take in oxygen from the atmosphere and expel carbon dioxide into the environment. Without this vital function, humans wouldn’t be able to survive.
Diaphragms are organs that make up part of our respiratory system. They’re located just below our ribcage, right above where our stomachs are. We often refer to them by their Latin name “diaphragm,” meaning’middle partition.’
During your lifetime, you’ll experience its impact on many different occasions. You can feel its effects when you inhale or exhale, when you swallow, and even when you lie sleeping at night. But what exactly happens when the diaphragm contracts? Let’s find out.
How Does Your Diaphragm Work?
Your diaphragm works somewhat similarly to how a piston does inside a cylinder. When you contract your muscles, they squeeze together. In turn, this squeezes the blood vessels and other tissues surrounding these muscle fibers. As a result, more blood rushes toward your heart and body, which causes your heart rate to increase.
This process also affects your breathing patterns. When you breathe in, your diaphragm moves downward, tightening and becoming smaller in size. This contraction allows your chest cavity to expand, pulling in fresh air through your nostrils. During exhalation, your diaphragm relaxes and returns to its original position, creating room for the newly-breathed oxygen-rich air to exit your mouth.
As we mentioned earlier, your diaphragm isn’t always visible. It’s actually made up of several separate sections called hemidiaphrases. These small flaps of tissue fill the space between each lung and your abdominal wall. While they help keep your torso stable while standing upright, they play no real role once you lay flat on your back.
These flaps have been replaced with one large diaphragm during fetal development, but as adults, we still have them. However, since your diaphragm only has so much strength, it needs additional support if it’s going to perform well. For this reason, your vertebrae naturally press against your spinal cord, thus providing support for your entire skeleton.
Of course, there’s more to the human body than bones, nerves and muscles. So what else makes your diaphragm tick?
Where Is Your Diaphragm Located?
Your diaphragm is found right beneath your rib cage, and it separates your chest cavity from your abdomen. Because of this location, it’s exposed to all kinds of pressures and forces, including those from your heart, lungs and digestive system.
For example, when you sleep at night, your diaphragm falls into place under your uppermost ribcage. Since it’s attached to your sternum, your ribs provide extra stability. This helps ensure that your diaphragm doesn’t get pushed upward too far, potentially causing damage to your internal organs.
On top of protecting your vital organs, your diaphragm also provides structural integrity to your chest cavity. If you were to remove it entirely, your chest would collapse due to its lack of support.
Why Do People Have Difficulty Breathing?
Some people don’t have trouble taking in enough oxygen because their diaphragms aren’t strong enough to allow for proper airflow. Others may suffer from conditions such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis and pneumonia that prevent them from effectively expanding their chest cavities. Still others can’t afford to lose weight because doing so puts increased pressure on their already compromised diaphragms.
It’s important to note that although some people are born without functioning diaphragms, most people acquire them later in life. Of course, not everyone gets the chance to develop one after birth. After babies stop developing certain parts of their bodies, the rest of their diaphragms become weaker over time.
If you’ve ever experienced difficulty swallowing food, then you know about the importance of having a properly working diaphragm. Like your vocal chords, your diaphragm is another component of your digestive system. It aids in breaking down food particles and extracting nutrients from them.
Without it, you’d end up consuming too many calories without getting any nutritional value.
So now you understand why you need a good diaphragm. Next time you go shopping for groceries, let your new knowledge guide you to the best products available. Good luck!

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