Pulmonary Rehab: Healing with Music

Pulmonary Rehab: Healing with Music

See how one man turned his passion in to a medical treatment.

Playing a musical instrument can be fun, but for people with lung problems it can also offer a health benefit.
Music has always been a huge part of Larry Rawdon’s life.
“I think it transports people to a different, a better place,” Larry Rawdon told Ivanhoe.
Larry was a professional cellist for 30 years. More recently, he took up the harmonica.
“I love playing the harmonica. It’s a great outlet,” Larry said.
However, for Larry, it’s been much more than that. After surviving two lung transplants, he noticed that his passion could also be a form of therapy.
“My scores were always substantially elevated after playing the harmonica,” Larry said.
Larry told his doctor about what he observed on his lung tests.
“I knew I could not just ignore what he was saying because this guy knows what he’s talking about,” Cesar Keller, MD, Professor of Medicine Medical Director, Lung Transplant Program, Mayo Clinic Florida, told Ivanhoe.
Mayo Clinic Dr.  Cesar Keller says playing the harmonica can strengthen a patient’s diaphragm, much like standard rehab exercises do, but the harmonica is more fun and patients are more likely to stick with it.
“If you can keep your respiratory muscles and your diaphragm as strong as possible, the disease will be better,” Dr. Keller said.
The repetitive tones make the muscles work. Dr. Keller says the harmonica isn’t a replacement for standard pulmonary therapy, but adding the instrument to the mix could be beneficial.
Larry couldn’t agree more. 
“I really do think music is oxygen for the soul,” Larry said.
Dr. Keller says that like most rehab programs, harmonica breathing exercises should be done three-to-five times a week.
Larry now teaches harmonica lessons to fellow patients as a supplemental pulmonary rehab exercise. Playing the harmonica may also benefit people with other respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

BACKGROUND: A lung transplant is needed when patients are suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or pulmonary hypertension. This surgery is usually a last resort, but it is necessary when the disease becomes out of control and doctors are out of options. Donors offer organs to those in need and then the procedure takes off. A surgeon cuts the chest to remove the faulty lung, and then replaces it with a new lung by sewing it to the main blood vessels and air passage. Complications may arise, such as infection or rejection of the transplanted lung. (Source: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lungtransplantation.html).

THERAPY:  After a lung transplant, a patient should communicate with doctors and nurses about a daily therapy routine. Therapy for lung disease is a long-term commitment and should involve a supportive team of medical professionals and family members. Therapy plans are created based on the patient and will result in an improved ability to function. Therapy should include:
• Nutritional counseling
• Breathing strategies
• Exercise
• Education
• Techniques to sustain energy (Source: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/pulreh/)

HARMONICA HEALING: It has been shown that playing the harmonica can strengthen the diaphragm in similar ways of traditional rehab exercises.  Patients have noted that playing the harmonica during treatment has increased their oxygen levels, which helps patients breathe easier. Inhaling and exhaling through the harmonica improves respiratory muscle conditioning, provides a focus on breathing, and can be fun for these patients. “Following lung transplantation, the path to full recovery largely depends on the transplant recipient to regain full functional capacity following the debilitating process of a chronic and progressive lung disease further complicated by the major physiologic impact of a major surgery like lung transplantation. Therefore the roles of physical therapy, exercises to regain physical endurance and stamina, as well as breathing exercises to regain diaphragmatic and respiratory muscle are vital in the recovery process,” Dr. Cesar Keller was quoted as saying. (Source: http://www.elcaminohospital.org/About_El_Camino_Hospital/Newsroom/Videos/Successful_COPD_Therapy_Playing_the_Harmonica and http://sharing.mayoclinic.org/discussion/harmonica-helps-pulmonary-and-lung-transplant-patients-breath-easier)

 For More Information, Contact:

Cesar Keller, MD
Professor of Medicine
Medical Director, Lung Transplant Program
Mayo Clinic Florida
(904) 956-3271

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