Music Therapy for Respiratory Symptoms in COPD

A growing area of research interest has been on the use of music for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and other respiratory diseases.

In 2015, Canga et al. conducted a novel study that compared one group receiving music therapy and standard pulmonary rehabilitation treatment to one group receiving standard pulmonary rehabilitation treatment. Canga emphasized that previous research in this area predominantly focused on specified, singular music therapy interventions, whereas this study employed a more comprehensive music therapy program that included therapeutic singing, wind instrument playing, and live music visualization. This multi-faceted approach allowed them to assess multiple parameters, including quality of life, psychological well-being, as well as respiratory symptoms.

Sixty-eight individuals that met all inclusion criteria were randomized into two groups, and monitored over the course of 6 weeks. Both groups received standard pulmonary rehabilitation treatment. The control group also received exercise training, and the experiment group also received six forty-five minute music therapy sessions.

The researchers found that while both groups showed improvement in most parameters measured, the group receiving music therapy showed greater improvement in depression symptoms. Additionally, the music therapy group had a higher effect in mastery results.

There were both strengths and weaknesses to this study. Data collection was clearly explained: Researchers utilized the Beck Depression Inventory to assess depressive symptoms, the Chronic Respiratory Questionnaire Self-Reported to assess Health Regulated Quality of Life (HRQL), and the Dyspnea Visual Analog Scale to assess perceived dyspnea symptoms. Another strength of this study is that is emphasizes the importance of treatment being administered by board-certified music therapists. This is particularly important because most previous research done in pulmonary rehabilitation with music based techniques did not involve music therapists as part of the treatment team.

The weaknesses of the study were well-outlined in the ‘study limitations’ portion. The researchers acknowledged that because this study was piloted as a 6-week trial that did not run the full length of the standard 24-week pulmonary rehabilitation, there may be unforeseen confounds or effects. They also suggested that future research should monitor additional physiological outcomes such as lung function. Another weakness of this study was that although they provided an operational definition for live music visualization, they did not fully explain their specific protocol for the therapeutic singing and instrument playing portions of the music therapy program.

Despite this, overall the study was a competent incorporation of pulmonary rehabilitation and music therapy, and provides practitioners additional grounds for evidence-based treatment of pulmonary diseases.

Reference: Canga, B., Azoulay, R., Raskin, J., & Loewy, J. (2015). AIR: Advances in respiration – music therapy in the treatment of chronic pulmonary disease. Respiratory Medicine, 109(12), 1532-1539. . doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2015.10.001. PMID: 26522499