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Better Breathing Through Music

Posted Nov 23 2009 10:01pm

Learning how to play “Jingle Bells” on the harmonica may do more than lift your spirits – it may also be the key to better breathing.

Sinai Hospital respiratory therapists, with harmonica player Buddy Wakefield, presented “Tune into Better Breathing” Thursday to Sinai staff members, including pediatric residents. A harmonica and elementary music book were provided to participants.

“Playing the harmonica is like doing push-ups for your lungs,” Wakefield, 86, told the crowd. He is pictured above demonstrating the techniques for playing. As a long-time musician, Wakefield became interested in the therapeutic powers of the harmonica when his brother Fred had end-stage Parkinson’s disease. Wakefield worked with his brother’s speech therapy group to teach breathing techniques. From there, he realized playing the harmonica helps with pursed-lip and diaphragmatic breathing, and research suggests it can strengthen the muscles needed to inhale and exhale.

Performance Improvement/Education Coordinator Ann Ludwig in Sinai Hospital’s Respiratory Therapy Department said the harmonica involves many of the techniques therapists use with pediatric patients, with children often responding more positively.

“All of our therapies are not fun – this is,” she said. “This incorporates many of the same things, like pursed breathing, but it gives you a happy feeling. It lifts the spirits.”

Participants like Sharon Rossi, R.N., M.S.N., the director of patient care services in Women and Children's Services, pictured at left, quickly picked up the tools used to play the harmonica.

Wakefield has worked with the American Parkinson Disease Association, the American Lung Association, and the Asthma Foundation, taking his instructional lessons across the country.

To learn more about Sinai Hospital’s pediatric programs, click here.
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