To the Tune of La! Singing Therapy for Breathing Troubles

Updated at: Apr 11, 2014
To the Tune of La! Singing Therapy for Breathing Troubles

Now a new study says how breathing practices given out to trained singers could help patients with respiratory problems. Here is a look at the study in detail.

Arka Roy Chowdhury
AsthmaWritten by: Arka Roy ChowdhuryPublished at: Apr 11, 2014

If you have ever trained in classical singing then you would know that breathing techniques play a vital role. There is a correct way for singers to breathe, and it is essential for good singing. The breathing techniques that a trained singer tries to learn can have a major impact on those with breathing issues.

London’s Royal Brompton Hospital has now started a program for patients with breathing problems through singing which would help people with respiratory problems including asthma, emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. It is a more fun, pleasant and easy way to help patients suffering from breathing problems as opposed to standard physiotherapy. The best part is that many people enjoy music and singing and thus could very enthusiastically participate in the program. Doctors at Royal Brompton Hospital started this program after they figured that the breathing techniques used by singers could also help patients with lung problems.

singing therapy for breathing

How it can Help

There are many ways in which breathing could help a person who is suffering from breathing troubles. People suffering from COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease have lungs which are damaged, lungs that have limits to how much air it can take in and give out. Then at times the problem gets aggravated by people who breathe rapidly. These rapid, shallow breaths can make it harder for them and perhaps learning to sing could help them to breathe at a more manageable rate, one which would not harm their lungs.

There were two trials conducted by Dr. Nicholas Hopkinson and his colleagues that could not actually find much improvement when it came to the patients’ performance on the breathing tests. In reality the lung function test does not change as the underlying disease did not change. Dr. Hopkinson says that in a study that compared patients who had gone to singing class versus those students who had attended a film discussion group it was found that only those students who sang felt physically better compared to the others. Some other experts have also agreed that this singing therapy was an unusual but yet a worthy approach.

It is only normal that people suffering from breathing problems such as COPD should learn to take deep breaths so that they can slowly synchronize each breath when they are doing some physical work, such as climbing a flight of stairs.

However patients say otherwise. John Cameron Turner, who is 77 years old who was diagnosed with emphysema in 2002, says that singing classes have helped him to breathe easily. According to him, all the medicines that he had taken did not help him with his problem. Ever since he had first started taking singing classes about five years ago, he is able to do more things such as gardening and walking. He also does not have to stop to catch up on his breathe like he used to before when walking.

singing therapy

The Downside

Another segment of experts believe that singing would only appeal to a small amount of patients and will not be able to replace the traditional form of treatment. It has been suggested by Julia Bott, who is a spokeswoman for Britain’s Chartered Society of Physiotherapy that activities such as yoga and tai chi have breathing techniques like that of physio exercises that respiratory patients are taught.

Furthermore, Julia Bott also suggested that the breathing techniques which are used for singing could only be helpful to people who have mild problems. She said that for those who have some severe disease singing will be pretty difficult, because they will be left panting and would be out of breath. Also, the songs that they use on such patient should be pretty basic.

It is only a matter of time before more studies come up and show us how singing could be great for the ones with a breathing
problem. A little singing never really hurt anybody, so why not!

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