Singing for COPD

Singing for COPD

McNamara RJ, Epsley C, Coren E, McKeough ZJ

Singing uses the lungs to provide airflow to produce musical words or sounds with the voice. Singing can require a lot of effort for muscle contraction and co-ordination. This may benefit people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in a manner similar to that of breathing exercises. Singing is said to be beneficial for health but we need evidence for this before it can be recommended specifically to address health conditions. We planned to examine whether singing had any effect on quality of life or breathlessness in people with COPD. We included three studies with a total of 112 participants. Participants were randomly assigned to singing training or to a non-singing control group. The control groups were either a film workshop, handcraft work, or nothing at all. The singing was performed in groups, once to twice a week for one hour, for a minimum of six weeks. There was diversity in the results of the studies and we were unable to combine many results in ‘meta-analyses’. A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis which combines the results of two or more separate studies to give a pooled result. Some studies showed improvements in some aspects of quality of life, while others showed no improvement. Breathlessness was only measured in one study and no improvement was found. The studies did not report whether any effects lasted for a long time after the singing training was completed. No studies reported any side effects from singing, so singing appears to be safe for people with COPD. The studies were of low quality due to the small number of participants and missing information about the methods and some of the outcomes. We were unable to find enough evidence to sufficiently determine the effect of singing in people with COPD. More studies are required and they should concentrate on enrolling larger numbers of people.

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