Diaphragm Spasm

Diaphragm muscle is indeed, the largest and strongest muscle in body; it acts like a partition between the chest and abdomen. It is one muscle that you are less likely to think about unless there is an issue with it. The body relies on diaphragm for its normal respiratory function. The contraction of diaphragm induces different functions such as decreased intrapleural pressure, expansion of the rib cage within its zone of apposition by generation of ‘positive intra-abdominal pressure’, and expansion of the rib rage with use of abdomen as the fulcrum.

Diaphragm spasm may occur in different forms such as hiccups, strain, and getting the wind knocked out of a person. A strained diaphragm may cause a condition known as hiatal hernia where the diaphragm becomes strained and the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm. The diaphragm strain or hiatal hernia is one condition, which is mostly misdiagnosed leading to treatment of people from suspected circulatory, heart, and stomach problems.

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Hiatal hernia or diaphragm strain not only causes weakness of diaphragm, heart, and circulatory problems but also gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux. The GERD arises from the medications given to reduce the production of stomach acids. However, hiatal hernia is a condition that if properly diagnosed, it needs a simple stretching of the diaphragm to its normal position thus freeing the stomach from the position it was trapped in. This creates normal breathing and improves the functioning of stomach. It is a treatment that can take less than 2 minutes.

Hiccups are induced by a form of diaphragm spasm that occurs due to a number of factors. When examining hiccups, it is important to look at how people breathe. In the normal breathing activity, people take in air through the mouth and nose and it flows through the pharynx and past the glottis to reach the larynx and the trachea before ending up in the lungs.

The diaphragm helps in the flow of the air to and from the lungs. The diaphragm moves down as one inhales, and then up as one exhales. The movement is controlled by the phrenic nerves. Whenever there is irritation on these nerves, it induces diaphragm spasm. This kind of spasm causes one to take short and quick breathes, which are interrupted by the closing of epiglottis, and it is that sudden closing that creates the hiccup sound.

The irritation, which leads to diaphragm spasm that causes hiccups, may be caused by a full stomach. When you swallow a lot of food and air, you may have the distended stomach pushing against the phrenic nerves thus causing the irritation. Hot, spicy foods may also be irritating to the nerves.

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Excess smoking and consumption of alcohol induces hiccups. Emotional excitements, shock, stress and other feelings could also trigger hiccups. There are other serious causes, which could affect the diaphragm and cause the hiccups, and if you have the hiccup lasting for more than 48 hours, you need to head straight to see a doctor.

There is diaphragm spasm that happens so sudden due to abrupt force applied to the abdomen. When there is sudden force, which puts pressure on abdomen or the solar plexus part of the abdomen, it can lead to diaphragm spasm. This is usually known as getting the wind knocked out. This kind of spasm of the diaphragm occurs in contact sports, or where a forceful blow happens to the abdomen.

It might occur due to falling on back. This diaphragm spasm results in temporary paralysis of diaphragm thus making it difficult to breathe. Although the condition should be able to clear spontaneously within a minute or two, it may lead to anxiety and residual pain from the blow. A person may experience continued difficulty in sitting, standing, and breathing even when the spasm has cleared mainly due to the residual pain arising from the blow.


If you experience spasm of the diaphragm and it causes symptoms that do not subside, it is important to see a doctor. Some spasm may be caused by serious problems like heart attacks, hysteria, and mental health issues. Depending on the cause of the spasm, appropriate treatment should be offered by the doctor.

For the hiatal hernia, it requires physical pushing of the diaphragm muscle in order to release the stomach back to its position. This needs to be done by a qualified doctor. In case of hiccups especially those, which last for more than 48 hours, a doctor, should be seen to determine the cause and suitable treatment.

If upon having spasm of diaphragm due to a blow or falling on back, you still feel pain, then you might need treatment for the residual pain. Getting wind blown out of you is the term used for this kind of spasm on diaphragm muscle. It is a condition that will clear out in one or two minutes but the pain it induces may last for sometime thus needing treatment.

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