Cervical magnetic stimulation (CMS) produces a greater twitch transdiaphragmatic pressure (TwPdi) than electrical stimulation. This may be because CMS produces rib cage muscle activation, thus producing an inspiratory action independent of the diaphragm. Alternatively, CMS could merely stiffen the rib cage, allowing the diaphragm to act efficiently, by contracting against a stable rib cage. To examine these two hypotheses we studied five patients with isolated bilateral diaphragm paralysis using CMS and bilateral electrical phrenic stimulation (BES). TwPdi, twitch esophageal pressure (TwPes), and twitch gastric pressure (TwPgas) were measured. We also assessed maximal sniff esophageal and transdiaphragmatic pressures (SnPes) (SnPdi), maximal inspiratory and expiratory mouth pressures (MIP) (MEP), and fall in VC on moving from an upright to a supine position. Respiratory muscle strength tests were consistent with bilateral diaphragm paralysis, and the MEPs confirmed normal expiratory muscle function. The patients were able to generate a mean SnPes of -30 cm H2O, mainly because of inspiratory activity of rib cage and neck muscles. However, TwPdi and TwPes during both CMS and BES were close to zero. We conclude that in our patients with diaphragm paralysis caused by neuralgic amyotrophy, CMS stiffens the rib cage but does not have an inspiratory action independent of the diaphragm.