Dr's Casebook: Try humming the Sound of Music to relieve sinusitis

Sinusitis can be painful and uncomfortable. Photo: AdobeStockSinusitis can be painful and uncomfortable. Photo: AdobeStock
Sinusitis can be painful and uncomfortable. Photo: AdobeStock
​​One of the worst complications of a respiratory infection is to get sinusitis. It can really make you feel miserable, because it is painful and uncomfortable.

Dr Keith Souter writes: Sinusitis occurs when the sinuses, hollow areas in the bones of the cheeks and around the eyes become inflamed. This results in air becoming trapped within them along with pus and other secretions. When this happens any movement of the head will cause these trapped secretions to move about within the inflamed sinuses to produce pain.

The old fashioned method of using steam to decongest the nose provides temporary relief, so has to be used several times a day. Nasal decongestants give longer relief, but if used for too many days can actually make matters worse by actually increasing congestion. Drinking plenty of fluids is one of the best things you can do, because it will tend to thin the secretions. Surprisingly research suggests that regular humming will also help.

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The thing that is needed in sinusitis is to keep air flowing between the nasal cavities and the sinuses. Research from the USA studied air flow in people when they hummed and when they gently exhaled. To do this they measured the concentration of a gas called nitric oxide, which is produced in the sinuses.

Amazingly, they found that humming increased the amount of nitric oxide 15-fold. This finding was replicated by another study in Finland. They found that humming greatly increased the amount of nitric oxide being produced by the paranasal sinuses.

Since reduced air flow is associated with sinusitis and nasal congestion generally it would seem that humming would be a good way to reduce the effects of sinusitis. They suggested that regular humming during sinusitis episodes for a few minutes a day can help the actual infection. Not only that, but they suggest that if you make humming part of your daily routine, just for those few minutes, then you can reduce the frequency of sinusitis episodes.

So what can you hum? Well, the most useful thing may be to hum the octaves, do, re, fa, so, la, te, do and hold each one for ten seconds. Effectively, hum the Sound of Music. Go up and down the scale three or four times a day during an episode of sinusitis.

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