Harmonicas could help COPD patients breathe easier

King 5's Amity Addrisi-Boicelli reports

Playing the harmonica could help lung transplant patients strengthen their diaphragm and breathe better.

Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease which causes tissue in the lungs to harden and become still, thus making it difficult for oxygen to get through the body. Sometimes, it requires a lung transplant as was the case for Larry Rawdon.

Now, he’s like a conductor of a great orchestra commanding the stage. Only his stage is a conference room and his musicians are lung and heart transplant patients at the Mayo Clinic.

"The harmonica is the best piece of exercise equipment for the diaphragm that I've ever seen," said Rawdon.

Rawdon used to play the cello on Broadway until idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis nearly silenced him forcing him to get a lung transplant. After his second transplant, a double lung transplant, he decided to use the harmonica to strengthen his diaphragm. It worked, and now Rawdon now teaches other transplant recipients his craft.

"Every time you train a muscle it gets better at what it does,” said Dr. Francisco Alvarez with the Mayo Clinic.

Alvarez calls the diaphragm the most important muscle for breathing. He says the harmonica, in combination with regular breathing exercises, improves the outcome for transplant recipients.

"You can see that the pulmonary function gets better, their breathing gets better, and overall they feel much better as a result," said Alvarez.

The COPD Foundation and Pulmonary Empowerment Program offer a nationwide harmonica program created especially for individuals with COPD and other chronic lung diseases. You can learn how to have better control of your breathing, exercise the muscles that help you breathe, boost self-confidence, and relieve stress, which could be music to your ears.

© 2017 KING-TV


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