Diaphragmatic Breathing Reduces Back Pain

Low back pain is routinely listed as the largest cause of chronic pain in the US, responsible for more occupational disability than any other cause. It doesn’t seem possible that simply practicing diaghragmatic breathing and abdominal bracing could help reduce low back pain (LBP), but it does!

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

Looking at this illustration of the abdominal muscles we can see that the true “core” ab muscle is the TA, not the . This is your “internal weight belt”. The muscles addressed by conventional ab work might give you a flat stomach but won’t support your lower back.


A healthy TA is really important for low back health. This muscle is intimately connected with the diaphragm, the QL and the iliacus (the ‘ilio’ in iliopsoas). As such, it forms a crucial bridge between breathing and movement – a link that 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, allowing 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. At a gross level, this inability of this very deep group of core muscles to stabilize against our movement three dimensions is the essence of chronic low back problems.

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

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.
  • Practicing deep rhythmic belly breathing tones the diaphragm.
  • Bracing the abdomen with the Transversus Abdominis against the breath tones this muscle as well. Check out our post on Benefits of Abdominal Bracing for details on this technique.

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 Movement Stabilization 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, but there are common foundations in this work with 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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