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What causes diaphragm spasms?

Nov 2013
User rating for this question
Very Good
Answered by

Practicing since : 1994
Answered : 5574 Questions
Hi Doctor,

My mother has diaphragm spasms from the age of 15 years which became severe eventually. Now, she is 52 years old. She is indefinitely suffering from these spasms which each one lasts from 3 to 5 min. During this long spasms, she shouts gasping for air and this is making her life miserable. Because of these, she is getting severe ear and headaches. No doctor has found the root cause yet. Please advice me on this!
Posted Thu, 7 Aug 2014 in Brain and Spine
Answered by Dr. Sudhir Kumar 6 hours later
Brief Answer:
Can you send the reports if available?

Detailed Answer:

Thank you for posting your query.

I have noted your mother's problem and it is unfortunate that she is suffering from so long.

If possible, please upload her reports. I am interested in any MRI scan of brain or spine and EEG reports.

Also, please send the list of medications she has used in the past for this problem.

Best wishes,
Dr Sudhir Kumar MD (Internal Medicine), DM (Neurology) XXXXXXX Consultant Neurologist
Apollo Hospitals, XXXXXXX
My blog:
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What causes diaphragm spasms? 3 hours later
I have no reports available with me right now, but the brain MRI and other scans turned out to be normal. Sir, I have investigated this rare condition myself as we are not getting answers from any doctor of the root cause of the problem and all they give is sleep medications. These spasms(I do not know the correct english terminology for this), if you know telugu, these are more like Arupulu(where they can be heard the whole street). I have researched this rare condition and found some interesting things. These may be if I am correct may fall under breathing problem category. The diaphragm is the main muscle that controls breathing and the spasms may occur if there is and problem with the Diaphragm something like Diaphragm Paralysis. The Diaphragm paralysis may be caused by the Phrenic nerve irritation or the Phrenic nerve(which sends signals to Diaphragm) damage.

These are just from my knowledge. Sir, Do you have any insights in to this scenario of Diaphragm paralysis or Phrenic nerve damage?
Answered by Dr. Sudhir Kumar 1 hour later
Brief Answer:
Could be diaphragmatic myoclonus.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for getting back with more details and medications.

I agree with you that the diaphragm is the main muscle involved in breathing and is supplied by the phrenic nerves. However, in your mother, there is no paralysis of the diaphragm, as the breathing would stop/decrease, if there is diaphragmatic paralysis.

The most likely cause of her symptoms is a condition called as myoclonus of diaphragm. All the tests may be normal in this condition, except the EMG (electromyographic study), where a needle is inserted in the diaphragm muscle and electrical activity is recorded. However, this test is not mandatory.

The drugs of choice include clonazepam and sodium valproate tablets. I am sure she would improve with medications.

Best wishes,
Dr Sudhir Kumar MD DM (Neurology) XXXXXXX Consultant Neurologist
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What causes diaphragm spasms? 22 minutes later
Thank you sir for the valuable insights. This gives some direction and hopes for me.

I have known diaphragmatic flutter falls under diaphragm myoclonus. May be she is having this condition, as I heard this is a rare condition, she is suitable in this category, however I am confused at this point.

My mother is in XXXXXXX I would like her to get an appointment with you. If requested, could you please do this test to further diagnose the condition. If you are willing, I will take an appointment for her with Apollo hospitals and is this test available at Apollo and do you perform this test?
Answered by Dr. Sudhir Kumar 2 minutes later
Brief Answer:
I would be pleased to see her at Apollo.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for getting back.

I would be pleased to see her at Apollo, Jubilee Hills. You can call 040-0000, extension 6634/3011 to fix the appointment.

The EMG facility is available at Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills.

Best wishes,
Dr Sudhir Kumar MD DM (Neurology)
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: What causes diaphragm spasms? 16 minutes later
Wonderful! I will take an appointment ASAP.

Thank you for your time and valuable advice.
Answered by Dr. Sudhir Kumar 8 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Thank you.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you and best wishes,

Dr Sudhir Kumar MD DM (Neurology)
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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