Didgeri…what? suggests that playing the wind instrument the didgeridoo improves respiratory function in asthmatics over time. This small study may seem inconsequential at first, but the chance for further research is encouraging indeed.
Thirty-three Aboriginal participants between the ages of five and 77 were chosen from Queensland, Australia. Aboriginals have a 50 percent higher asthma rate than non-Indigenous Australians. The participants were enrolled in musical training classes for six months: while the male participants practiced the didgeridoo, the female participants took voice lessons. The didgeridoo was the chosen instrument because of the respiratory skills needed to play it successfully, requiring controlled manipulation of the tongue, throat and diaphragm. The didgeridoo is also historically significant within Aboriginal culture, acting as an important incentive to persuade the Aboriginals to participate. Because Aboriginal tribes forbid women from touching the instrument, the female participants were given vocal lessons as a substitute.
At three-month intervals, the participants’ respiratory functioning was tested for signs of improvement. The tests examined how fast a person can breathe, the amount of air that can be forced out, and the difference in lung volume during a full inhale and a full exhale. The participants were also asked to record any perceived improvements in their asthma symptoms.
The male participants” breathing abilities showed slight improvements between the three-month intervals. On the other hand, the female participants exhibited less significant changes, but they showed improvements in the speed of their breathing. Some participants also recorded perceived improvements in their overall health.
The researchers acknowledged that the lack of a control group diminished the legitimacy of their results. Consequently, they could not claim that playing the didgeridoo or singing were responsible for the participants’ respiratory improvements. However, a similar study presented in the Journal of Asthma that incorporated a control group supports their results. The students that played wind instruments had a significant decrease in asthma symptoms and anxiety compared to the students who played non-wind instruments.
If your child suffers from asthma, there is a chance that the breath control it takes to play a wind instrument might just improve his symptoms. And hey, if not, it’ll look good on the college resume. There are many other ways asthmatics can improve their symptoms, so visit a doctor or nutritionist for proven alternatives.
Research suggests playing the didgeridoo may be a natural cure for sleep apnea too.