Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other chronic respiratory disorders who received music therapy and standard rehabilitation saw an improvement in symptoms, psychological well-being and quality of life compared with patients receiving rehabilitation alone, according to a recent study.

OT_News-01The research was conducted by investigators at The Louis Armstrong Center of Music and Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York. Study findings, which were published in the December issue of Respiratory Medicine, suggest music therapy might be an effective addition to traditional treatment.

COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC, with symptoms including shortness of breath, wheezing, an ongoing cough, frequent colds or flu and chest tightness. Patients with COPD often are socially isolated, unable to get to medical services and underserved in rehabilitation programs, making effective treatment difficult, according to a news release.

The 68 study participants were diagnosed with chronic disabling respiratory diseases, including COPD. During six weeks, a randomized group of these patients attended weekly music therapy sessions. Each session included live music, visualizations, wind instrument playing and singing, which incorporated breath control techniques. Certified music therapists provided active music-psychotherapy. The music therapy sessions incorporated patients’ preferred music, which encouraged self-expression, increased engagement in therapeutic activities and an opportunity to cope with the challenges of a chronic disease.

“The care of chronic illness is purposefully shifting away from strict traditional assessments that once focused primarily on diagnosis, morbidity and mortality rates,” Joanne Loewy, DA, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at MSBI, said in the release. “Instead, the care of the chronically ill is moving toward methods that aim to preserve and enhance quality of life of our patients and activities of daily living through identification of their culture, motivation, caregiver/home trends and perceptions of daily wellness routines.”

The study was conducted at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at MSBI.

“Music therapy has emerged as an essential component to an integrated approach in the management of chronic respiratory disease,” Jonathan Raskin, MD, study co-author and director of the Alice Lawrence Center for Health and Rehabilitation at MSBI, said in the release. “The results of this study provide a comprehensive foundation for the establishment of music therapy intervention as part of pulmonary rehabilitation care.”

The researchers who conducted the study work at the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine at MSBI. While conducting research and providing health services to New York City’s performing artists, the center’s staff teaches and trains music therapists. The study’s lead author, Bernardo Canga, MMT, was one such research fellow. Study funding was provided by Johnson & Johnson’s Society for the Arts In Healthcare and the Louis Armstrong Education Foundation. Yamaha donated recorders for patient use in the study.

Study abstract: