A muscle spasm anywhere on the body can be troubling, but it is especially unsettling when it occurs within the diaphragm. Although it is not a common condition, a diaphragm spasm can be caused by familiar health conditions. As it is the largest and strongest muscle in our body, the diaphragm is crucial. A contraction of this muscle may hinder breathing and cause great pain. In this article, you can learn more about the reasons behind the spasms and how a two-minute exercise may help control diaphragm muscle spasm symptoms.
What Is Diaphragm Spasm?
Before we learn how to stop diaphragm spasms, we need to understand how the muscle works. The diaphragm muscle is a barrier between the chest and the abdomen. It has two major roles in our respiratory functions. As we inhale, our diaphragm contracts and moves away from the lungs, providing room for the lungs to expand with air rich in essential oxygen. When we exhale, the diaphragm expands as it returns to its original position near the lungs and pushes out air rich in harmful carbon dioxide.
The diaphragm muscle can spasm due to strains caused by irritation from health conditions and injuries. These triggers of the spasms may not always be preventable, but understanding the cause can help treat the condition.
Causes and Symptoms of Diaphragm Spasm
Let’s turn to the possible causes behind sudden diaphragm spams.
1. Nerve Irritation
The nerves that control the movement of the diaphragm away from and towards the lungs as we breathe are known as the phrenic nerves. Irritation of the nerves is one of the causes of diaphragm spasms. These spasms are known to be the cause of hiccups, which we experience as short, sudden breaks of breath. This occurs as the epiglottis closes and creates the “hic” sound. Hiccups are linked to other health conditions, but the diaphragm may be involved if they last more than 48 hours.
Irritation of the nerves can also occur with satiety, the swallowing of food and air at the same time, and the ingestion of spicy food.
2. Hit to the Abdomen
A blunt and sudden blow to the abdomen is one of the major diaphragm spasm causes. The blow can be a result of an auto accident or a contact-sports injury. Participants of sports such as boxing, wrestling, and rugby are at high risk for injury leading to diaphragm spasm.
With the causes and triggers of diaphragm spasms uncovered, we now turn to the symptoms that may occur from experiencing these spasms.
3. Hiatal Hernia
One of the more common diaphragm spasm symptoms is a hiatal hernia. It is also one of the most misdiagnosed symptoms as well. With this condition, the stomach is pushed through an opening in the diaphragm. This can lead to further problems such as acid reflux, circulatory issues, and injury to the stomach and heart.
4. Temporary Paralysis
A very scary result of diaphragm spasms can be temporary paralysis to the diaphragm itself. This happens when there is a direct-force hit to the stomach. It can cause breathing difficulties and hiccups.
Some people tend to ignore milder signs and symptoms such as chest tightness, throat tightness, and pain in the chest and stomach.
Diagnosing and Treating Diaphragm Spasm
As stated earlier, many symptoms may mirror that of other health problems and therefore many cases of diaphragm spasms go undetected and untreated. It is often thought to be a heart or gastrointestinal issue with the accompanying symptoms of shortness of breath and hiccups.
There is one fool-proof test that can be used to confirm a diaphragm spasm diagnosis, and it only takes two minutes of your time. It’s recommended that two people participate in this test for the best results.
First, lie on your back on the floor with a pillow under your head and shoulders. Hold your breath for as long as possible with your partner keeping track of the seconds.
Next, breathe normally and relax. Your partner should have their hand on the upper portion of your abdomen, just below the ribcage. Have the person apply heavy and steady pressure inward and downward to your right for 10 to 15 seconds. This should be repeated three to four times before you repeat holding your breath again.
After this, if you are able to hold your breath at least 50% longer the second time around, your diagnosis is a diaphragm spasm condition.
You can also use this test to strengthen and build up your breathing skills to treat your diaphragm spasms. Perform it daily for the first week, three times weekly for the next four weeks, and then only two times weekly for the following four weeks. Warn your partner to avoid pushing on the ribs as they can be fragile and break more easily than one may think.
Diaphragm spasms can be part of one’s daily life if misdiagnosed as another condition such as acid reflux. The spasms occur suddenly and cause pain, difficulty breathing, and possibly hiccups. Spasms of the diaphragm can lead to serious complications if left untreated. The symptoms that are often seen with these spasms can also be treated as if they are associated with other health conditions. You can easily test yourself to see if you suffer from diaphragm spasms, and if so, you can use the same test as a diaphragm spasm treatment.