“Harmonica therapy” for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Posted by Katherine, Alumni Mentor @katemn, Feb 21, 2017

I do not have COPD but just saw this and thought it was really interesting so thought I would pass it on! We have a very dear friend who has a form of ALS who is a lifelong musician .. worked his way through law school as a sax player. As his lung capacity diminished he was determined to continue with his jazz band AND enhance his lung capacity .. sure enough .. he took up the harmonica AND has maintained as much of his lung capacity as possible with daily harmonica practice! So this really caught my eye! Hope it helps someone! Katherine

Modern Healthcare, Meet the Harmonicats: Using musical therapy for COPD, “Play three verses of ‘Oh! Susanna’ and call me in the morning.” That could become a common “prescription” pulmonary specialists pass on to their patients as “harmonica therapy” for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease starts to take hold. Harmonicas have been used to improve lung function at hospitals across the country, including the Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.; El Camino Hospital, Mountain View, Calif.; Seton Medical Center, Austin, Texas; and Advocate Christ Medical Center near the South Side of Chicago—an area that’s produced some legendary blues harmonica players.

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I have ran across another form of breathing therapy, it's called the breathless choir, by Phillips. For the full story you can go to the "inspiration room.com" and search Phillips breathless choir. I dare you not to shed a tear. I have since tried my karaoke voice since my IPF diagnosis and watching this, and although I can't elongate a note anymore I still can sing, however I usually don't stay up that late to visit the places that have karaoke and that scene has passed for me. I do sing though, but just not for a crowd.


Here's the article that @katemn refers to Meet the Harmonicats: Using musical therapy for COPD http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150404/MAGAZINE/304049957

@steve1948 tears are streaming down my face! What a great story. Thanks for sharing it. Here's the link for everyone to watch http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2016/philips-breathless-choir/

I think @hopeful33250 will be particularly interested in these articles.


This is just a general question to the group: I will be ending my 18 months of being on the meds for MAC end of April. I do cough some, but infrequently and do not bring up much of anything. How am I going to get a sputum sample? Before, I had no trouble with that as I was coughing all the time. I just began using a nebulizer in the AM to see if that would bring up stuff, but so far it has not. If I can not get it myself, will I have to have a bronchoscopy? I dread that as I had it done once, but that was years ago and they used no sedative or anything! Maybe it is less invasive now? Can anyone suggest all the ways to bring up sputum? Before stopping the meds, I do want to know if the MAC has been beaten back. Thanks, Pamela


I feel for you Pam, My doctor prescribed "Sodium Chloride" (which amounts to nothing but a salt solution) to add to my albuterol in the nebulizer. It definitely makes one cough, and helps a productive sputum for me, not as much as I'd like but every little bit is a blessing. Best of luck.


@steve1948, Steve, thanks for jumping in! I like your idea of "add to my albuterol in the nebulizer". Why? Because I was going to suggest to Pamela that she ask her Pulmonologist IF in her area there is a hospital/clinic that has a "salt induced sputum booth" (that is what I call it!). I just googled it .. found: https://www.nationaljewish.org/treatment-programs/tests-procedures/sputum-induction

@pamelasc1, Pamela, I do it at Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN. Essentially what I do is sit on a stool facing a booth .. inhale salty air until my airways are irritated enough to produce a sputum sample .. try again and again until enough sputum is produced for a productive sample. Once the sputum sample came back "Too scant to sample" .. but every other time they were able to culture the sample.

Personally I am unable to use Albuterol to open the airways because it triggers my migraines .. but that is the 1st step at Mayo .. AND if you cannot find the above facility .. I would request from your Pulmonologist what Steve is doing .. a good possibility!

Darn, for the life of me I cannot remember the wonderful member who put us on to the device "Aerobika". .. you can read about it at:
https://www.monaghanmed.com/Aerobika. I just want to say that I did purchase it .. and used it according to her directions including the 3 "huffs" prior to coughing up the sputum! Below is my particular routine:

1. use 2 inhalers PRIOR to brushing my teeth .. cough up as much sputum as possible
2. use an Aerobika device . Use a "huff" cough, (like you were cleaning your glasses and fog them with your breath only more forceful), along with the Aerobika, you can pull mucous out of those lower airways. Using the Aerobika I am able to get up even more sputum.
3. using peroxide to dampen my toothbrush with toothpaste to brush (purchased a squirt dispenser)
4. using peroxide after brushing for toothbrush storage for sterilizing
I think this routine will help oral thrush by keeping my Sonicare toothbrush sanitized daily. http://www.good-gums.com/sanitizing-your-toothbrush.cfm
Hope some of the above helps someone! Hugs to all! Katherine


@pamelasc1, Pamela, you accidentally got our of our MAC & Bronchiectasis Forum .. I did the same thing. Just post next to:


Hugs! Katherine


Katherine, it was @melrosedecosmo and @maryjo2sell who have given great info about the Aerobika in the past.

Melrose started this discussion:
- Aerobika device shows promise for treating bronchiectasis exacerbation http://mayocl.in/2jcjDCB


Thank you Katherine and Steve for the information as to how best to get the sputum up - lovely subject! - I will ask my doctor about adding the saline to my nebulizer. As to the Aerobika approach: can I purchase this device online or do I have to get a prescription? Pamela


Thank you Colleen!


Thank you Kate for the harmonica info. I am going to Amazon and purchase one today. The way I look at it it can't hurt you! Rosie

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