Abdominal SEMG Feedback for Diaphragmatic Breathing: A Methodological Note

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Abstract

Diaphragmatic breathing from a developmental perspective is a whole-body process. During exhalation, the abdominal wall contracts, and during inhalation, the abdominal wall relaxes. This pattern is often absent in many clients who tend to lift their chest when they inhale and do not expand their abdomen. Even if their breathing includes some abdominal movement, in many cases only the upper abdomen above the belly button moves while the lower abdomen shows limited or no movement. This article describes factors that contribute to the lack of abdominal movement during breathing, as well as a methodology to record the surface electromyography (SEMG) activity from the lower abdominal muscles (external/internal abdominal oblique and transverse abdominis). Strategies are presented to teach clients how to engage the lower abdominal muscles to facilitate effortless breathing. For example, when the person exhales, the lower abdominal muscles contract to flatten the abdomen and push the diaphragm upward, and these muscle relax during inhalation to allow the diaphragm to descend. Lower abdominal SEMG recording can also be used as a surrogate indicator for SEMG activity from the pelvic floor. To enhance activation of the lower abdominal muscles during a breathing cycle, specific exercises are described. In summary, lower abdominal SEMG feedback is a useful strategy to facilitate complete abdominal involvement during breathing.

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