Can Music Treat COPD?

Can music be used to improve your health?

Music is arguably one of the only things that can be considered universally loved. Across culture and history, music has been an appreciated and celebrated form of entertainment for thousands of years. But can it affect your health?

For those who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), quality of life can be negatively affected across a lifetime leaving few treatment options for those in need.

However, recent studies have shown that music therapy (listening and playing music) may be more than just a form of entertainment, and may exhibit real effects on the health of those suffering from respiratory illness such as COPD and other lung diseases.

With your health in mind, the Lung Institute is here to give you the best information on this emerging musical discovery, and tips for how to implement these changes into your own life.

The Benefits of Playing Music

Playing an instrument can be an exercise in itself; particularly if that instrument is in the brass (trumpets, horns) or woodwind family (flute, saxophone).

In order to correctly play these instruments, a certain level of breathing control is necessary in order to exert the right amount of air in intervals timed with the music.

For those suffering from respiratory illness, the very idea of this can seem far and away.

However, the practice of physically exercising the lungs through these measures can do wonders in gradually improving quality of life. 

In a recent study, researchers have found that in patients with COPD and other respiratory conditions, those who received music therapy saw an improvement in symptoms, quality of life, and psychological well-being. As we’ll touch on later, the key is start slow.

Music and the Mind

The effects of music on the mind have been studied for quite some time. No matter the genre or the tempo, it has been discovered that simply listening to music can bolster mental processing and can be largely beneficial on cognitive function and development.

On the other hand, when playing a musical instrument, the brain is stimulated to a degree that helps to prevent dementia and other mental illnesses.

In the process of picking up an instrument and learning to play for the first time, the brain is forced to interpret and integrate a large range of sensory information, which strengthens communication between different areas of the brain.

So the question remains, “how do I get these benefits?”

Getting Started

When seeking the physical and mental benefits of music therapy it’s important to balance listening as well as playing. When listening to music, any type of music that you enjoy and are familiar with will do just fine.

By actively listening (not just having it on in the background) you will be subconsciously stimulating your cognitive development.

For those seeking the physical benefits of music therapy by picking up an instrument, it is best to start slow.

Although a woodwind or brass instrument can be extremely difficult for those with respiratory problems, they can also provide the best benefit to lung health so use your best judgement on which instrument is best for you, given your respiratory health.

Challenging Instruments:

  • Woodwind Instrument: Saxophone
  • Brass Instruments: Trumpet

However, for those seeking an instrument that is less demanding on their pulmonary function, lighter and simpler instruments can provide respiratory benefits as well.

Less Demanding Instruments:

  • Woodwind Instrument: Flute
  • Brass Instrument: Harmonica