North Texas

Harmonicas Could Help Strengthen Patients' Lungs

It's an unconventional treatment for people with breathing illnesses.

For years, harmonicas have been used to help patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, and now a study is underway to find out why.

"There are lots of people who play the harmonica all over the nation, but no one has measured what the scientific evidence is of playing the harmonica," said Mary Hart, registered respiratory therapist at Baylor Scott & White and researcher in the study.

COPD makes it difficult for the person to move oxygen in and out of the lungs, but playing the harmonica strengthens those muscles.

As part of the study, a group of COPD patients are making music while tracking their lung health.

Over the next six months, researchers will use breathing tests to monitor lung and respiratory muscle function.

They're also assessed on quality of life and how far the person can walk in six minutes. Researchers say they tracked improvement at the 12-week mark.

"When you talk to the patients, they tell you that they're happier. They have, we have, bonded for life," Hart said.

If the project shows success, they'll open the program to more patients.

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