Tribune Print Share Text

Music can help you breathe easy

Created date

March 2nd, 2016
musical notes
musical notes

Researchers from Mount Sinai Health System’s Louis Armstrong Center of Music and Medicine recently conducted a study examining the effect of music therapy as an addition to standard treatment for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD affects over 15 million Americans and is the third leading cause of death in this country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COPD is not a single disease—it refers to lung diseases that cause restricted airflow and other breathing problems. Bronchitis and emphysema are the most common forms of the disease. People with COPD have symptoms such as shortness of breath, excess mucus, chronic coughing, chest tightness, and frequent respiratory infections. Some patients benefit from pulmonary rehabilitation, an individualized program aimed at teaching COPD patients how to manage their disease in a way that maximizes their quality of life. Elements of pulmonary rehabilitation can include energy-conserving techniques, breathing training, and nutritional counseling.

Music as therapy

In this study, published in the journal Respiratory Medicine, researchers added weekly music therapy to a standard pulmonary rehabilitation program for a randomized group of COPD patients. Elements of the therapy included live music, wind instrument playing, music visualization, and singing. The certified music therapists administering these techniques incorporated the participants’ favorite types of music.

The researchers discovered that the patients who had received music therapy had less shortness of breath, less fatigue, and better scores on psychological well-being measures than the group who underwent standard pulmonary rehabilitation. 

The researchers hope that these findings will help the medical community appreciate the potential advantages to an integrated approach to chronic disease care rather than using exclusively traditional treatments.