Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Back Pain

Low back pain is routinely listed as the largest cause of chronic pain in the US. It is responsible for more occupational disability than any other cause. It doesn’t seem possible that simply practicing diaphragmatic breathing reduces back pain, but it does! In addition, to get the most out of this we also want to learn abdominal bracing.

Many people have been through an episode of LBP that was severe enough to be referred for therapy. The craze about “strengthening your core” is partly a response to the low back problems associated with 21st century lifestyles. There is broad agreement about this. However, the foundation of true core musculature is the diaphragm and its partner, the Transversus Abdominis (TA).

However , looking at this illustration of the abdominal muscles we can see that the true “core” ab muscle is the TA, not the rectus abdominis (the “six pack” muscle).  The muscles addressed by conventional ab work might give you a flat stomach but won’t support your lower back.

Transversus Abdomonis – Your Internal Weight Belt


A healthy TA is really important for low back health. This muscle is intimately connected with the diaphragm, the quadratus lumborum (QL) and the iliacus (the ‘ilio’ in iliopsoas). As such, it forms a crucial bridge between breathing and movement. This link begins to clearly develop when we are just a few weeks old.

Many of us do not breathe deeply and rhythmically on a regular basis. This would allow our own breath to tone our deep abdominal muscles. We also don’t effectively use our QL and iliopsoas to stabilize and support the movements of our trunk and our limbs against each other. Our breath can help us with that.

In fact, this inability of this very deep group of core muscles to stabilize against our movement in three dimensions is the essence of chronic low back problems. Stabilizing these important muscles is how diaphragmatic breathing reduces back pain.

Our spines suffer because the muscles and connective tissue at this critical junction are no longer working together effectively.

Deepening Your Diaphragmatic Breathing

So, we’ve clarified what core muscles are and some of the ways they relate to low back pain. What can we do about it?

  • Situps and other abdominal exercises will NOT help and may actually cause back pain.
  • Proper training of the deep abdominal muscles begins with diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal bracing.
  • Practice deep rhythmic belly breathing to tone the diaphragm.
  • Practice abdominal bracing technique with the TA against the breath. This tones this muscle as well.

The intention of training of these and other core muscles is to provide stability as we move. Breath is the foundation of this stability. Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization therapy improves function and relieves pain. It is a simple method and it works. We continue to use and improve this approach for treating lower back pain with great success.

Everyone is different and many of us have additional challenges and complications, We tailor our treatment plans to the individual. However, there are common foundations in this work for everyone.

Email us at Help@WestSubPainRelief.com or call us at 630 858-0000 to learn more about how you can reduce pain, increase flexibility and gain strength from simple self-care activities.

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