Now a new instrument is helping people who suffer from this chronic disease breathe a little easier. It's a musical as well as medical treatment.
Some people with COPD have excess mucus in their lungs. When patients blow into the "Lung Flute," sound waves are sent down the airways, mobilizing that mucus. Studies show using it twice a day improves lung congestion and other COPD symptoms.
"It helps with clearance of the mucus and essentially then they feel better the rest of the day," said Dr. Sanjay Sethi, pulmonary division chief, University of Buffalo.
It may also help protect against potentially fatal respiratory illnesses like pneumonia.
"There were patients who would come to me all the time and say, 'Listen, once I clear the mucus, I feel better,'" said Sethi.
The Lung Flute is FDA-approved. Insurance typically covers the cost, but if you'd rather pay out of pocket, the lung flute and a six-month supply of reeds runs about $50. A doctor's prescription is needed to get one.