Musical Alternative in Pulmonary Rehab Helps Patients Breathe Better


Playing the harmonica is beneficial to a pulmonary rehabilitation patient because it requires a blow and a draw of air through the instrument. By doing these simple tasks, a patient is exercising their diaphragm and intercostal muscles between their ribs. As a patient works their way through the harmonica exercise manual, they learn progressive breathing techniques, as well as simple songs.

“Many patients report subjectively that they feel less short of breath with activities of daily living once they begin harmonica therapy,” UPMC Western Maryland Pulmonary Rehab Coordinator Stacey Blank said. “Not only are patients exercising their breathing muscles, they are socializing and having fun; laughing and setting goals together. Playing music is also relaxing.”

The pulmonary rehabilitation program at UPMC Western Maryland utilizes a COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) Patient Empowerment Program (PEP). Although the COPD Foundation spearheaded this national program, harmonica therapy can be utilized for any patient with lung disease.

For more information on Harmonicas for Health and UPMC Western Maryland’ Better Breathers Club, call 240-964-1800. This is a free program.

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