Pulmonary Rehab: Healing with music

FRESNO, Calif.

Music has always been a huge part of Larry Rawdon's life.

"I think it transports people to a different, a better place," Larry Rawdon said.

Larry was a professional cellist for 30 years. More recently, he took up the harmonica.

"I love playing the harmonica. It's a great outlet," Larry said.

However, for Larry, it's been much more than that. After surviving two lung transplants, he noticed that his passion could also be a form of therapy.

"My scores were always substantially elevated after playing the harmonica," Larry said.

Larry told his doctor about what he observed on his lung tests.

"I knew I could not just ignore what he was saying because this guy knows what he's talking about," Cesar Keller, MD, Professor of Medicine Medical Director, Lung Transplant Program, Mayo Clinic Florida said.

Mayo Clinic Dr. Cesar Keller says playing the harmonica can strengthen a patient's diaphragm, much like standard rehab exercises do, but the harmonica is more fun and patients are more likely to stick with it.

"If you can keep your respiratory muscles and your diaphragm as strong as possible, the disease will be better," Dr. Keller said.

The repetitive tones make the muscles work. Dr. Keller says the harmonica isn't a replacement for standard pulmonary therapy, but adding the instrument to the mix could be beneficial.

Larry couldn't agree more.

"I really do think music is oxygen for the soul," Larry said.

Dr. Keller says that like most rehab programs, harmonica breathing exercises should be done three-to-five times a week.

Larry now teaches harmonica lessons to fellow patients as a supplemental pulmonary rehab exercise. Playing the harmonica may also benefit people with other respiratory conditions, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Cesar Keller, MD
Professor of Medicine
Medical Director, Lung Transplant Program
Mayo Clinic Florida
(904) 956-3271

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