Singing therapy for long COVID
Updated 19th July 2021 - for the most up to date coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance and information, please visit the NHS or government’s dedicated pages. This advice may differ in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Long COVID is a term used by doctors to describe ongoing symptoms caused by COVID-19. Lots of people who get infected with the virus will feel better after a couple of weeks, and most will recover completely within 12 weeks. For some people, though, the symptoms last a lot longer.
One of the main symptoms of long COVID is shortness of breath. Many weeks after getting the infection, people with long COVID might get breathless after doing normal activities like walking up the stairs. Breathing might feel more difficult than normal, and might cause physical symptoms like chest pain, as well as mental symptoms like anxiety.
To help patients recovering from COVID-19 and experiencing breathlessness, NHS England has recently announced the rollout of a country-wide programme created with the English National Opera (ENO).
The programme, ENO Breathe, was piloted in 2020 and proved successful. Now it is being made available to up to 1,000 patients experiencing breathlessness and anxiety as a result of COVID-19. ENO Breathe will be overseen by clinicians from Imperial College, and will combine musical and medical expertise to combat the symptoms of long COVID.
If you’re living with long COVID and experiencing symptoms like breathlessness, singing therapy could be a good way to manage your symptoms.
How does singing help with breathlessness?
Singing therapy for breathlessness isn’t a new concept. In fact, the British Lung Foundation (BLF) recommends it for people who have lung issues like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
According to the BLF, singing helps with breathlessness in a few different ways:
- It can teach you to breathe more slowly and deeply
- It helps you develop more control over your breathing
- It helps improve your posture
You can find out more about the benefits of singing by visiting this page on the BLF website: How can singing improve my wellbeing?
Does singing help with anxiety?
Singing is proven to have all kinds of beneficial effects, including on your mental state. If you’re having a lot of anxiety about your breathlessness, singing can help you feel more in control. This can reduce feelings of stress and panic associated with being short of breath.
As an added bonus, joining a singing therapy group can be a great way to socialise with other people experiencing similar symptoms. Sometimes, simply talking about what you’re going through with people who can empathise can reduce your feelings of panic and anxiety.
Can I get singing therapy to help with my long COVID symptoms?
Yes! There are a few different ways to get singing therapy. The important thing to remember is: you don’t need any singing ability or past training to join.
One way to get singing therapy is through ENO Breathe. This programme only runs in certain locations in England. to be eligible you will need to be referred to a specialist long COVID clinic. Find out more by visiting the ENO Breathe website.
Singing groups for lung health
There are currently about 100 singing groups for lung health across the UK. Some of these groups will be completely free; others might suggest a small voluntary contribution.
At the time of writing this article, lockdown restrictions are still in place across the country, so it’s likely these groups won’t be meeting in person. However, some of these groups will have websites containing useful resources and home exercises.
Find your nearest group by visiting this page on the BLF website, entering your postcode and ticking “Singing group”.
Exercises to try at home
If you can’t find a singing group to join, visit this page from the BLF and try some simple exercises at home.
The BLF also recommends trying the exercises on this CD: Singing for Breathing.
Other treatments for long COVID
With long COVID, it’s usually a case of managing your symptoms rather than treating them medically. Aside from breathlessness, some common long COVID symptoms include:
- Aches and pains
- Changes to your taste and smell
- Anxiety and low mood
You might find that these symptoms combine to make it difficult for you to move around, work, socialise, sleep and eat. For tips on how to combat these effects visit the NHS website: Your COVID Recovery.
If you’re worried that you might have COVID-19, you can order one of our home test kits through our secure online clinic.