Lung disease sufferers may want to talk to their doctors about music making as a means of strengthening lung capacity. Several hospitals and treatment centers around the country are offering harmonicas to patients with emphysema, asthma, and other kinds of chronic lung disease. These ailments cause small sacs in the lungs, called alveoli, to over-inflate so that the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide becomes inefficient. As a result, many sufferers are constantly out of breath and are at risk of lung collapse.
Harmonicas are inexpensive and effective tools for treating the effects of respiratory illness. Hospitals are finding that teaching patients to play the harmonica gives them some basic breathing techniques that allow more oxygen to get into the lungs. It also strengthens the diaphragm and other respiratory muscles. Basic harmonica techniques, like “pursed lip breathing,” mirror the special breathing techniques that doctors and therapists encourage patients to use if they are having trouble breathing. As a result, patients become more aware of their breathing and are better able to combat the symptoms of the disease.