Music Medicine for the Lungs: What a Great Idea!

Harmonicare

Music Medicine for Lungs

I’ll bet you never thought that music medicine might be used for the lungs! Many people send me news articles about music therapy, music medicine and music healing.  I also get lots of Google alerts about these topics, but last night, something came across my desk that I’d never heard of before!  Harmonica therapy!

A hospital in New Jersey is using ‘harmonicare’ to assist in the recovery of lung patients.  This is yet another way that music medicine is being used.  Playing the harmonica reportedly helps, “strengthen diaphragm muscles” and stamina, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It really makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?  If you’ve ever tried playing the harmonica, or any wind instrument, you know that it really takes a lot more air that you expected.  I’m not a woodwind player (other than a brief stint of playing the oboe for a year in college) but I’ve always loved to hear people who are expert players, especially on the oboe.  Little did I know that playing the harmonica can be not only fun and rewarding, but it can also be therapeutic!  Of course I should have known this, since I’m always telling people that any kind of music can be therapeutic if it brings joy and satisfaction to the player or the listener.

That article in the Wall Street Journal goes on to say that:

“The group gathered around a conference table at Holy Name Medical Center and flipped through binders until they found the music for Chloe Fernandez’s favorite song. Taking deep breaths, they raised their harmonicas to their lips and blew the first notes of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Chloe, 9 years old, of Ridgewood, N.J., is one of the youngest participants in the hospital’s “Harmonicare” weekly classes. The year-old program provides free harmonica instruction to people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, and other lung ailments.

“We don’t judge when somebody messes up,” said Chloe. “It’s supportive.”

Karine Shnorhokian, a nurse manager at Holy Name Medical Center, said she got the idea for “Harmonicare” after hearing that her friend’s mother, who suffered from emphysema, had improved considerably after taking up the instrument. Playing music together also nurtures a sense of community among the patients.

“A lot of the benefit is social,” Ms. Shnorhokian said.”

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