Striking a somewhat somber note, Bob Dylan once stated, “Songs can’t save the world.” But according to a program started at London’s Royal Brompton Hospital, singing may show subjective benefit for improving lung disease. In a piece posted on Foxnews.com the program is “led by a professional musician and is offered to people with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, or COPD.” Dr. Nicholas Hopkinson noted, “Since many people enjoy singing, we thought it would help them associate controlling their breathing with something pleasant and positive rather than a standard physiotherapy technique. It’s almost accidental that they learn something about their breathing through singing.” Physiotherapy is England’s version of Respiratory Therapy. Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association notes, “There’s a sound physiological rationale for this. Controlled breathing, like the kind you might learn in singing, is very important because people with COPD should try to take deep breaths and slowly synchronize each breath when they’re doing something like walking up stairs.”
While the program has not shown hard evidence with regard to “improvement in patients’ performance on breathing tests, in a study comparing patients who went to the singing class versus those who attended a film discussion group, only the patients who sang reported feeling physically better afterwards, even if it couldn’t be measured objectively.” Though lacking strong clinical evidence at this juncture, singing is certainly cost effective. Perhaps a nebulizer treatment and rousing round of “Puff the Magic Dragon” could become standard of care!