Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a deep relaxation technique that has been effectively used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia, and reduce symptoms of certain types of chronic pain. Progressive muscle relaxation is based upon the simple practice of tensing or tightening, one muscle group at a time followed by a relaxation phase with the release of the tension. Doctors have used progressive muscle relaxation in combination with standard treatments for symptom relief in a number of conditions, including headaches, cancer pain, high blood pressure, and digestive disturbances.
The technique of progressive muscle relaxation was described by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s and is based upon his premise that mental calmness is a natural result of physical relaxation. Progressive muscle relaxation can be learned by nearly anyone and requires only 10 minutes to 20 minutes per day to practice.
Most practitioners recommend tensing and relaxing the muscle groups one at a time in a specific order, generally beginning with the lower extremities and ending with the face, abdomen, and chest. You can practice this technique seated or lying down, and you should try to practice with comfortable clothing on, and in a quiet place free of all distractions.CONTINUE READING BELOW
Here is how it works;
- While inhaling, contract one muscle group (for example your upper thighs) for 5 seconds to 10 seconds, then exhale and suddenly release the tension in that muscle group.
- Give yourself 10 seconds to 20 seconds to relax, and then move on to the next muscle group (for example your buttocks).
- While releasing the tension, try to focus on the changes you feel when the muscle group is relaxed. Imagery may be helpful in conjunction with the release of tension, such as imagining that stressful feelings are flowing out of your body as you relax each muscle group.
- Gradually work your way up the body contracting and relaxing muscle groups.
People who suffer from insomnia often report that practicing progressive muscle relaxation at night helps them fall asleep. Progressive muscle relaxation is also an excellent tool to help learn about the body and the signals it may be telling you. With practice and time, you can learn to accurately identify and diminish the signs and signals of stress and tension in your body.
Steps to Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Find a quiet place free from distractions. Lie on the floor or recline in a chair, loosen any tight clothing, and remove glasses or contacts. Rest your hands in your lap or on the arms of the chair. Take a few slow even breaths. If you have not already, spend a few minutes practicing diaphragmatic breathing.
Now, focus your attention on the following areas, being careful to leave the rest of your body relaxed.
- Forehead. Squeeze the muscles in your forehead, holding for 15 seconds. Feel the muscles becoming tighter and tenser. Then, slowly release the tension in your forehead while counting for 30 seconds. Notice the difference in how your muscles feel and the sensation of relaxation. Continue to release the tension until your forehead feels completely relaxed. Continue breathing slowly and evenly.
- Jaw. Tense the muscles in your jaw, holding for 15 seconds. Then release the tension slowly while counting for 30 seconds. Notice the feeling of relaxation and continue to breathe slowly and evenly.
- Neck and shoulders. Increase tension in your neck and shoulders by raising your shoulders up toward your ears and hold for 15 seconds. Slowly release the tension as you count for 30 seconds. Notice the tension melting away.
- Arms and hands. Slowly draw both hands into fists. Pull your fists into your chest and hold for 15 seconds, squeezing as tight as you can. Then slowly release while you count for 30 seconds. Notice the feeling of relaxation.
- Buttocks. Slowly increase tension in your buttocks over 15 seconds. Then, slowly release the tension over 30 seconds. Notice the tension melting away. Continue to breathe slowly and evenly.
- Legs. Slowly increase the tension in your quadriceps and calves over 15 seconds. Squeeze the muscles as hard as you can. Then gently release the tension over 30 seconds. Notice the tension melting away and the feeling of relaxation that is left.
- Feet. Slowly increase the tension in your feet and toes. Tighten the muscles as much as you can. Then slowly release the tension while you count for 30 seconds. Notice all the tension melting away. Continue breathing slowly and evenly.
Enjoy the feeling of relaxation sweeping through your body. Continue to breathe slowly and evenly.