Harmonica used to help health of patients

Now here is something you maybe weren’t expecting, the Harmonica is being used to help the health of patients with breathing difficulties. The University of Michigan’s pulmonary rehabilitation program meets once a week for an hour to play the Harmonica. The class has people suffering with chronic lung conditions or breathing difficulties. They happen to be making music with the thing that they suffer with most, their breath.

While many in the medical profession refute the evidence that playing the harmonica improves lung capacity, that doesn’t stop patients from saying that it has helped them breath deeper and gain strength. Carlos Marinez a medical direct believes that breathing with pursed lips can decrease the amount of air that remains in the lungs, which can provide some relief from shortness of breath.

A former rehab coordinator at the University of Michigan started the harmonica class in 2003. She raised donations to buy instruments and music stands and found a patient’s wife to teach the class. Over the years, classes have ranged from six participants to as many as 20. Ms. Rubadeau, who suffers from lymphangioleiomyomatosis, or LAM, took over as teacher about 10 years ago.

Not only will the patients gain some benefit from using a harp to mimic the breathing exercises used in pulmonary rehab, but the social aspects of being part of the harmonica group can lift morale and become one of the only place patients go to outside their home.

There are a number of other harmonica groups for rehab patients, including at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif. The Harmonicats play at UCHealth in Aurora, Colo. At Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., Larry Rawdon, a retired Broadway cellist, has been teaching the harmonica to lung-transplant patients since 2013. And the COPD Foundation launched a Harmonicas for Health initiative in February, which has helped 25 treatment centres start classes.

It is wonderful to see classes popping up all over the USA to help patients.