Is playing the Trumpet good for Asthma?
Playing the trumpet can be beneficial for reducing asthma symptoms but…
- Is it significant?
- How much can having asthma affect trumpet playing?
- Could it even be that having asthma HELPS trumpet playing in some aspects?
Let’s take a look at this today:
Trumpet playing and having asthma
Personally I have been an asthma sufferer for about 20 years now but I keep it under control, without medicine, just using tools and tips that I will share later on in this article. So be sure to take a look at that.
First let’s talk about how trumpet playing can help with asthma.
Are there studies?
A study made in 1994 took a look at eight teenage asthmatic wind instrument players and 10 asthmatic non-wind instrument players. They all kept a strict log of their asthma symptoms and the purpose of the study was to examine if wind players exhibit fewer bronchoconstrictive symptoms, panic-fear responses, changes of mood, and fatigue symptoms than non-wind instrument players.
The positive results of the study
The conclusion of the study showed that the wind instrumentalists present a significantly better “asthma health” picture, perceiving themselves better able to cope with the disease and that…
…playing a musical wind instrument has the potential of being a long-term therapeutic agent for asthmatics. (Link to study)
Other than that one study there are not much scientific evidence and more studies needs to be done on the subject…
The anecdotal “evidences” are massive
Well I’m not sure I want to use the word “evidence” when it comes to word of mouth but it certainly can’t be ignored how many people claim that playing the trumpet helps with their asthma, and personally, I’m one of them. Now I have to make it clear that my own asthma is only mild but…
…perhaps that IS due to the fact that I play the trumpet almost every day? If I dont do that then my asthma symptoms tend to become worse.
When it comes to breathing I find that playing the trumpet helps me with
- Having control over my breath (better awareness)
- Making it easier to breathe in the amount of air I feel necessary
- Helps me to better be able to stay calm in a stressful situation
I have also found that, if I for some reason go a couple of months without playing my trumpet at all, my asthma symptoms becomes worse. I have also read and heard others say the same thing.
And those words is the anecdotal part of this blog post but, again, there are a lot of people reporting the same and I have a hard time seeing why people should just make that stuff up. Playing the trumpet is clearly good for asthma.
Can having asthma actually HELP trumpet playing?
Short answer: perhaps in one way but still, NO!
But not so fast, here me out here:
Believe it or not some people have the bad habit of using too much air when playing the trumpet (over blowing). I have had a few students over the years that have been”overblowers” and a couple of times, I have noticed an interesting phenomena…
Their playing got WORSE after getting asthma treatment. Now, of course just two students is not enough for giving good data but it is interesting nevertheless, because I can see the same thing in myself if I use asthma medicine.
So what’s happening?
Here’s the deal:
I believe that for trumpeters that already have a tendency to overblow when they play, suddenly giving them a substance that opens up their airways, to full capacity, will make the overblowing even more pronounced since more air is now rushing into the horn and, thus, making the overblowing issue even bigger.
Now, am saying that those people should choose to have asthma symptoms just to keep them from over blowing? Of course not! I’m just pointing out what I think is going on.
The ideal is of course to learn how to not overblow when playing the trumpet and also to treat to your asthma.
I have a tendency to overblow myself but it is of course very possible to learn how not do that, no matter how restricted or open the airways are, and in fact, the more open and relaxed they are the better it is, as long as we have learned to use the airflow in a correct manner.
More often than not asthma is NOT helpful for trumpet playing
Of course we should try to treat our asthma both for the sake of our health but also in order to play the trumpet better. As I just mentioned, optimal trumpet playing happens when the airways are really open and we are very relaxed. More often than not symptoms of asthma get’s in the ways of this. In our trumpet playing this will often show up as
- Difficulty getting a full resonant sound
- Difficulty playing long phrases
- Difficulty getting enough air in on fast passages with short rests for the in-breath
- Difficulty playing without coughing
- Or in worst cases it becomes impossible to play at all
Depending on how severe your asthma is there are a lot of natural things you can do to help
My own asthma has never been that severe and I can keep it under control without using any medications. Using a few hacks I can even get it to go away completely and blow totally fine test results in the asthma meters.
Of course my symptoms comes back as soon as I stop using the tricks and because of that the asthma is by no means “cured”.
My personal tricks that works for my own asthma
First thing I want to do is leave out all dairy products. That alone improves my asthma symptoms somewhat but then the next thing I do is really powerful and, by regularly doing this, I am almost asthma free…
…enter intermittent fasting. That’s right, for extended periods of time I go without eating anything at all. And I really do mean nothing at all…
How intermittent fasting helps my asthma
Playing trumpet is good for asthma but so is not eating. Even more effective…
…but how is this?
Here’s the deal
Whits asthma there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. This results in asthma symptoms. Now, intermittent fasting is one of the most anti-inflammatory things we can do. When the bodies digestive system gets to take some “time off” the body, smart as it is, starts looking around for other things to do…
…other things to do in form of reparation, with inflammation being on the top of the list. With frequent “time outs”from eating we will enter this state of “repair mode” on a regular basis and this is very good for our brains and bodies. It does take a little time to get used to however.
Here is how I structure my intermittent fasting
I do it a bit differently depending on what I have got going on in my life but most of the time I will follow a 16-8 fast. What this means is that every day I will have an “eating window” of 8 hours followed by a “fasting period” of 16 hours where I only drink water or coffee.
- I eat my last meal at 9.00 pm on Monday night and after that my fast starts
- The next time I eat is 1.00 pm the following day. It has now been 16 hours since my last meal and my body has done a lot of “repairing” during that time.
- When my eating window starts at 1:00 pm, I now how a period of 8 hours were I’m allowed to eat. Between 1:00pm to 9:00 pm I am supposed to get all my daily calories in.
If you want to dive deeper into this the whole intermittent fasting concept, here is a good article to go read. Now, of course there is no need to be super strict with the time there and I keep it flexible and sometimes start eating at, for example 12:20 pm and or stop eating sooner, like 7:00 pm to make my fast longer.
It is when we go above 12 hours without any food when the magic starts to happen so my general rule is to make sure I go at least a couple of hours longer than 12 hours every day.
Some other things you can do to improve your trumpet playing if you have asthma
Intermittent fasting is the most powerful of them all but in addition here are a few things that also can help reduce your symptoms of asthma and help with your trumpet playing.
No surprise here. Physical exercise has been shown to significantly help reduce symptoms of asthma and at the same time build the strength of your lungs…so two things that will help your trumpet playing. A double whammy. One recent study found that adults who walked three times a week for 12 weeks actually improved asthma control and fitness levels without provoking an attack.
Drink more coffee
Yes it is actually true. In your beloved cup of coffee there is a chemical that is a lot like theophylline, an asthma drug used to relax airway muscles. It reduces respiratory muscle fatigue, which can help with wheezing and shortness of breath. One word of warning though: Don’t drink too much coffee before your gig though, as it could make your performance anxiety much worse.
By the way, if you have problems with anxiety, be sure to read my artcile how to deal with your nerves performing the trumpet
No Pets in the bedroom or in your sofa
This one is pretty self explanatory.
Avoid cleaning products with chemicals
Fumes from household cleaners and chemicals can trigger asthma and also make the symptoms worse over time. Avoid inhaling fumes at home and prevent exposure away from home as much as possible. Try to find healthier, natural, alternatives wherever it is possible to do so.
Reduce stress from your life as much as possible
Anxiety, stress or even intense emotions increases symptoms of asthma. Try to make an effort to reduce unnecessary stressors in your life as much as possible. Easier said that done, I know, but not at all impossible.
Given is considered a super food, and with all the studies shown its multiple benefits for your mind and body, that is not surprising at all. It is also potent for reducing symptoms of asthma. Make yourself a portion with equal amounts of ginger, honey and pomegranate and consume it two times a day. I think you might be surprised.
Always keep your horn clean!
Regularly clean the inside of your trumpet properly. Other vise playing the trumpet might even make your asthma worse. Brass musicians may unknowingly inhale mold and bacteria from their instruments, which is bad for the lungs in every way.
This is prevented by regular cleaning of your instrument. This is not to be taken lightly as even people who does not suffer from asthma might get into trouble if they have the bad habit of skipping their cleaning. If you are interested there is an article on ABC news on this subject.
If you need tips and help with how to clean your trumpet then you can go and read my article how often and how to clen my trumpet.
Don’t let asthma become an excuse
There are many famous trumpet players with asthma and it should in no way be a hinder for you to get where you want with your ambitions as a trumpet player. Heck you can even find screaming high note trumpeters with only one lung and they are still able to do it.
Humans are incredible capable of adapting, compensating and coming up with more efficient ways to do something in order to get around a certain issue and when it comes to asthma, trumpet playing, and todays medications, it really should not be a big deal at all. As long as we have ears, lips and a way to get the air in and out of the body we should be able to play our beloved instrument.
Thanks for taking the time to read the article “Is playing trumpet good for asthma ?” I guess this whole blog post was just one long way of answering instead of just saying…
…Yes, trumpet playing is good for asthma =)
P.S. While we are on the subject of trumpet playing and how it affetcs our bodies, perhaps you also would be interested in reading my article
Does playing the trumpet burn calories?