The muscles of the thorax comprise of the diaphragm and the muscles of the thoracic cage. Located below the lungs, the diaphragm is a sheet of skeletal muscle with a double-domed structure. It plays an integral role in the body as it acts as a barrier between the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity. To enable structures to pass through the thorax to the abdomen, there must be three openings. The oesophagus, aorta and the inferior vena cava are common structures that require these channels. Furthermore, the diaphragm is essential for respiration as it changes shape to adjust the volume of the thoracic cavity. The phrenic nerve is responsible for supplying the motor innervation to the diaphragm, with the inferior phrenic arteries providing the majority of its arterial blood supply.
The intercostals (external, internal and innermost), subcostals and transversus thoracic are the five muscles that make up the thoracic cage. These muscles assist in influencing the volume of the thoracic cavity during respiration, and facilitate the appropriate movement of the rib cage.
The diaphragm is therefore the primary muscle of the thorax and is imperative in assisting breathing. It helps in elongating and contracting the thoracic cavity and regulates the pressure within the thoracic cavity to ensure effective exchange of gases. The other muscles that make up the thoracic cage can be described as cocontractors. These are secondary muscles of respiration which are in constant contraction, thus stabilising the thoracic cage and the diaphragm. The diaphragm and thoracic cage muscles work in synchrony to ensure the effective functioning of the respiratory system.
The efficient functioning of the respiratory system relies heavily on the intricate network of muscles that make up the thorax. Inhalation requires the diaphragm and thoracic cage muscles to expand, elongating the rib cage, and thus bringing in oxygen into the lungs to be released into the bloodstream. Exhalation requires the opposite to happen, with the thorax muscles working to contract and reduce the volume of the thoracic cavity to expel carbon dioxide from the lungs. Thus, the thorax muscles are of utmost importance in ensuring the exchange of gases within the respiratory system.
Besides being involved in respiration, the thorax muscles also contribute to other movements of the body. For instance, the diaphragm and thoracic cage muscles are involved in the production of speech. During speech production, the thorax muscles and diaphragm contract and expand rapidly to provide adequate airflow for articulation of words. The thorax muscles are also important in providing stability to the spine and trunk while movements such as coughing, sneezing, and laughing are completed. Studies have revealed the connection between poor posture and restricted thorax muscles, thus highlighting the importance of thorax muscles in providing stability to the trunk and spine.
It is essential to include exercises that target the thorax muscles in a daily routine to keep them functioning optimally. The following are a few exercises that can help in effectively working the thorax muscles.
It is important to remember that it is not just exercises that help to strengthen the thorax muscles. Good posture, regular stretching, and proper breathing techniques also play a vital role in ensuring the optimal functioning of the thorax muscles.
The thorax muscles are essential in ensuring the effective functioning of the respiratory system and providing stability to the spine and trunk. While exercises are a great way to strengthen the thorax muscles, good posture, stretching, and proper breathing techniques should also be taken into consideration. Therefore, it is important to include exercises that target the thorax muscles in a daily routine to keep them functioning optimally.
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