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      Manual evaluation of the diaphragm muscle

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          The respiratory diaphragm is the most important muscle for breathing. It contributes to various processes such as expectoration, vomiting, swallowing, urination, and defecation. It facilitates the venous and lymphatic return and helps viscera located above and below the diaphragm to work properly. Its activity is fundamental in the maintenance of posture and body position changes. It can affect the pain perception and emotional state. Many authors reported on diaphragmatic training by using special instruments, whereas only a few studies focused on manual therapy approaches. To the knowledge of the authors, the existing scientific literature does not exhaustively examines the manual evaluation of the diaphragm in its different portions. A complete evaluation of the diaphragm is mandatory for several professional subjects, such as physiotherapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors not only to elaborate a treatment strategy but also to obtain information on the validity of the training performed on the patient. This article aims to describe a strategy of manual evaluation of the diaphragm, with particular attention to anatomical fundamentals, in order to stimulate further research on this less explored field.

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          Most cited references 40

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          Anatomic connections of the diaphragm: influence of respiration on the body system

          The article explains the scientific reasons for the diaphragm muscle being an important crossroads for information involving the entire body. The diaphragm muscle extends from the trigeminal system to the pelvic floor, passing from the thoracic diaphragm to the floor of the mouth. Like many structures in the human body, the diaphragm muscle has more than one function, and has links throughout the body, and provides the network necessary for breathing. To assess and treat this muscle effectively, it is necessary to be aware of its anatomic, fascial, and neurologic complexity in the control of breathing. The patient is never a symptom localized, but a system that adapts to a corporeal dysfunction.
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            Inspiratory muscle training in adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: an update of a systematic review.

            The purpose was to update an original systematic review to determine the effect of inspiratory muscle training (IMT) on inspiratory muscle strength and endurance, exercise capacity, dyspnea and quality of life for adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The original MEDLINE and CINAHL search to August 2003 was updated to January 2007 and EMBASE was searched from inception to January 2007. Randomized controlled trials, published in English, with adults with stable COPD, comparing IMT to sham IMT or no intervention, low versus high intensity IMT, and different modes of IMT were included. Nineteen of 274 articles in the original search met the inclusion criteria. The updated search revealed 17 additional articles; 6 met the inclusion criteria, all of which compared targeted, threshold or normocapneic hyperventilation IMT to sham IMT. An update of the sub-group analysis comparing IMT versus sham IMT was performed with 10 studies from original review and 6 from the update. Sixteen meta-analyses are reported. Results demonstrated significant improvements in inspiratory muscle strength (PI(max), PI(max) % predicted, peak inspiratory flow rate), inspiratory muscle endurance (RMET, inspiratory threshold loading, MVV), exercise capacity (Ve(max), Borg Score for Respiratory Effort, 6MWT), Transitional Dyspnea Index (focal score, functional impairment, magnitude of task, magnitude of effort), and the Chronic Respiratory Disease Questionnaire (quality of life). Results suggest that targeted, threshold or normocapneic hyperventilation IMT significantly increases inspiratory muscle strength and endurance, improves outcomes of exercise capacity and one measure of quality of life, and decreases dyspnea for adults with stable COPD.
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              Diaphragm muscle fiber dysfunction in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: toward a pathophysiological concept.

              Inspiratory muscle weakness in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is of major clinical relevance; maximum inspiratory pressure generation is an independent determinant of survival in severe COPD. Traditionally, inspiratory muscle weakness has been ascribed to hyperinflation-induced diaphragm shortening. However, more recently, invasive evaluation of diaphragm contractile function, structure, and biochemistry demonstrated that cellular and molecular alterations occur, of which several can be considered of pathologic nature. Although the fiber-type shift toward oxidative type I fibers in COPD diaphragm is regarded as beneficial, rendering the overloaded diaphragm more resistant to fatigue, the reduction of diaphragm fiber force generation in vitro likely contributes to diaphragm weakness. The reduced diaphragm force generation at single-fiber level is associated with loss of myosin content. Moreover, the diaphragm in COPD is exposed to oxidative stress and sarcomeric injury. The current Pulmonary Perspective postulates that the oxidative stress and sarcomeric injury activate proteolytic machinery, leading to contractile protein wasting and, consequently, loss of force-generating capacity of diaphragm fibers in patients with COPD. Interestingly, several of these presumed pathologic alterations are already present early in the course of the disease (GOLD I/II), although these patients do not appear to be limited in their daily-life activities. Therefore, investigating in vivo diaphragm function in mild to moderate COPD should be the focus of future research. Treatment of diaphragm dysfunction in COPD is complex because its etiology is unclear, but recent findings show promise for the use of proteasome inhibitors in syndromes associated with muscle wasting, such as the diaphragm in COPD.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                18 August 2016
                : 11
                : 1949-1956
                [1 ]Department of Cardiology, Foundation Don Carlo Gnocchi IRCCS, Institute of Hospitalization and Care with Scientific Address, Milan
                [2 ]CRESO, School of Osteopathic Centre for Research and Studies, Castellanza
                [3 ]CRESO, School of Osteopathic Centre for Research and Studies, Falconara Marittima
                [4 ]Foundation Polyclinic University A Gemelli, University Cattolica del Sacro Cuore
                [5 ]Radiological, Oncological and Anatomopathological Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Bruno Bordoni, Department of Cardiology, Foundation Don Carlo Gnocchi IRCCS, Institute of Hospitalization and Care with Scientific Address, S Maria Nascente, Via Capecelatro 66, Milan 20100, Italy, Tel +39 2 34 9630 0617, Email bordonibruno@
                © 2016 Bordoni et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.


                Respiratory medicine

                physiotherapy, chiropractic, manual therapy, osteopathic evaluation, diaphragm


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