Chronic airflow limitation, caused by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or by asthma, is believed to change the shape and the position of the diaphragm due to an increase in lung volume. We have made a comparison of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of diaphragm in supine position with pulmonary functions, respiratory muscle function and exercise tolerance. We have studied the differences between patients with COPD, patients with asthma, and healthy subjects. Most interestingly we found the lung hyperinflation leads to the changes in diaphragmatic excursions during the breathing cycle, seen in the differences between the maximal expiratory diaphragm position (DPex) in patients with COPD and control group (p=0.0016). The magnitude of the diaphragmatic dysfunction was significantly related to the airflow limitation expressed by the ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 s to slow vital capacity (FEV(1)/SVC), (%, p=0.0007); to the lung hyperinflation expressed as the ratio of the residual volume to total lung capacity (RV/TLC), (%, p=0.0018) and the extent of tidal volume constrain expressed as maximal tidal volume (V(Tmax)), ([l], p=0.0002); and the ratio of tidal volume to slow vital capacity (V(T)/SVC), (p=0.0038) during submaximal exercise. These results suggest that diaphragmatic movement fails to contribute sufficiently to the change in lung volume in emphysema. Tests of respiratory muscle function were related to the position of the diaphragm in deep expiration, e.g. neuromuscular coupling (P(0.1)/V(T)) (p=0.0232). The results have shown that the lung volumes determine the position of the diaphragm and function of the respiratory muscles. Chronic airflow limitation seems to change the position of the diaphragm, which thereafter influences inspiratory muscle function and exercise tolerance. There is an apparent relationship between the position of the diaphragm and the pulmonary functions and exercise tolerance.