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Why playing the clarinet or trumpet can help with lung diseases

In Europe
February 23, 2024

Few pick up music for their physical health, and yet that’s precisely the reason to play instruments like the clarinet, didgeridoo and trumpet, according to experts.

Playing a wind instrument regularly can complement the treatment of a lung disease, says Thomas Voshaar of Germany’s Association of Pneumological Hospitals (VPK).

The reason is that the musician can only make a sound in a wind instrument when they build up enough pressure in their airways. And this is precisely what trains the respiratory muscles.

Various studies have also shown that children with asthma are able to improve their lung function by regularly playing wind instruments.

“Higher-pitched wind instruments such as the clarinet, oboe and trumpet are particularly suitable for this training,” pulmonologist Thomas Voshaar says. Playing these instruments requires a particularly high amount of air pressure in the airways.

With lower brass instruments such as the tuba, on the other hand, a relatively low air pressure is sufficient when playing. The training effect on the lungs is therefore less pronounced.

One other wind instrument can also help with the metabolic disease cystic fibrosis: the harmonica. Those who play it breathe more intensively, which helps to clear the secretions in the airways of those affected.

The slight vibrations in the body that occur when making music also contribute to this. Pneumological experts say that playing the harmonica with cystic fibrosis can have similar effects to sports therapy.

There is also an instrument that can provide relief for anyone whose breathing briefly stops during sleep: the didgeridoo. Studies have shown that playing the didgeridoo regularly reduces sleep apnoea and that sufferers are more rested during the day.

“When learning to play the didgeridoo, a breathing technique is practised almost incidentally that is generally very important for patients with chronic lung diseases,” says lung specialist Voshaar. This technique is characterised by the fact that the air is throttled when exhaling – which also strengthens the respiratory muscles.

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