The primary functions of the abdomen consist of digestion, breathing, posture, balance, as well as movement. The major organs located in the abdomen are associated with digestion, for which the functions are described above.
The abdomen is also required for breathing via the accessory muscles of respiration. Such muscles are also involved in postural support, movement, balance, coughing, urination, vomiting, singing, childbirth, and defecation.
The function of the Abdomen in Breathing
At a steady state, the diaphragm controls breathing, but when more effort is required, the accessory respiratory muscles help with breathing. These muscles include the scalene and sternocleidomastoid muscles, which help lift the chest. When these muscles are tight, it’s usually a sign of trouble breathing, such as during an asthma attack.
Your diaphragm, the dome-shaped muscle at the base of your lungs, plays an important role in breathing, but you may not be aware of it. During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward.
This creates more space in the chest cavity and allows the lungs to expand. When exhaling, the opposite happens the diaphragm relaxes and moves up in the chest cavity.
We all know how to fully engage the diaphragm well to breathe deeply and refreshingly. But as we grow older, we get out of the habit. Everything from the stresses of everyday life to practicing belly “breathing” to slim down our waistline encourages us to gradually move toward shallower, less satisfying “chest breathing.”
Relearning how to breathe through the diaphragm can benefit everyone. Diaphragmatic breathing (also called “abdominal breathing” or ” belly breathing”) facilitates complete oxygen exchange. It means the beneficial exchange of incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide. Naturally, this type of breathing slows the heart rate and can lower or stabilize blood pressure.
Movement and Posture
Abdominal muscles support the core, allow movement, and hold organs in place by regulating intra-abdominal pressure. The deep abdominal muscles, along with the back muscles, form the core muscles that stabilize and balance the body and protect the spine.
Abdominal muscles are also essential for posture, balance, and movement. The transverse abdominis and internal oblique muscles influence posture by supporting the spine during rotation and lateral bending and stabilize the spine during standing.
Both of these muscles are located deep in the abdomen. The external obliques also support lateral bending and stabilize the spine when standing. Finally, the rectus abdominis acts to bend the spine forward.