What Really Happens When You Get The Wind Knocked Out Of You

One of the most frightening and unpleasant feelings to experience is having the wind knocked out of you. Whether you were a kid who fell off the monkey bars or an adult playing a game of soccer, a hard blow to the abdomen or chest can result in difficulty breathing normally. Fortunately, getting the wind knocked out of you is a temporary condition and almost always passes within a few minutes.

Breathing is an automatic function of the nervous system. We don't have to think about inhaling and exhaling — our body just does it. While most people know that healthy lungs are essential for efficient breathing, the unsung hero of our ability to take nice, deep breaths is the diaphragm. This large muscle is located directly below the lungs and is shaped like a dome (via Medline Plus). When the diaphragm contracts, the top of the dome goes down and pulls the lungs with it. This allows the lungs to expand and fill with air. Once the diaphragm is done contracting, it pushes back up into a dome shape and presses the air back out of the lungs (via Healthline). When this system functions normally, you breathe easily without even thinking about it. But when something interrupts this flow and the diaphragm spasms, breathing can feel impossible.

These steps can help you breathe normally again

Diaphragm spasms are involuntary contractions that can cause tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing (via Medical News Today). Sudden hard hits to the abdomen can cause diaphragm spasms and paralysis. When the diaphragm becomes paralyzed temporarily, it has a hard time expanding and contracting. You might feel like you can't catch your breath. This is what's commonly referred to as getting the wind knocked out of you. Temporary paralysis of the diaphragm should pass within a few minutes.

If you receive a hit to the chest or abdomen and get the wind knocked out of you, there are a few steps you can take that might help your diaphragm relax and stop spasming. Try lying on your back with bent knees (via Healthline). A pillow under your knees and head can help put you in a comfortable position to resume normal breathing. While you slowly breathe through your nose, you should feel your stomach rise and fall as you tighten your stomach muscles and exhale through your mouth. The more you relax, the faster your diaphragm will return to its normal condition and go back to helping you breathe normally.