How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation and What are its Benefits?

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive muscle relaxation is an exercise that is done to relieve stress and anxiety. It is a two-step procedure that was originally developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in the 1920s. It is a systematic technique that follows a simple mechanism of tensing the muscles and then relieving the stress, to provide relaxation to the muscles. Though there are a number of muscle relaxation and stress relieving techniques that are very useful, the Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a fast and effective method that has a number of benefits.

How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation and What are its Benefits?

Best Candidates for Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Though anyone can try the Progressive Muscle Relaxation techniques to relieve stress, the best candidates for this relaxation therapy are –

  • People who are suffering from insomnia.
  • People who have certain types of pain in the body.
  • People suffering from chronic headaches.
  • Patients of cancer having cancer pain.
  • People with digestive disorders.
  • People with high blood pressure.

How to do Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

As already mentioned, the Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a two-step relaxation therapy or method. Here is how it works.

  • Step One- Putting Tension on the Muscles. First you need to put tension to the muscle group that you need to relieve off the stress from. As you choose the muscle group, you need to squeeze the muscle as hard as you can, so that you can really feel the tension in your muscles. You must continue squeezing for about 5 seconds or a little more, so that there is a little discomfort in the muscles. Make sure that you hold the muscles tightly either by stretching or by twisting or by making a tight fist, depending on the position.
  • Step Two- Relaxing the Tensed Muscles. Now that the muscle group is tensed, it is now time to relax the muscles after about 5 seconds of tension. The tensed muscles are slowly released from the tension state. The tightness would slowly flow out through the tense muscles. It is very important that you notice and experience the relaxation process as the stress or tension is relieved off. The very basic purpose of the whole exercise is to experience the relaxation. Practicing to notice the difference between the ‘before’ and ‘after’ state of the tense muscle will increase the comfort.

You should wait for about 15 seconds as the tension is released and then repeat the process on another muscle group.

Factors to Keep in Mind while Practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

  • The tension must be focused only to the target muscle group and should not extend to the surrounding muscles.
  • You must be careful while tensing your muscles. Do not hurt yourself.
  • The tension must be deliberate, but gentle.
  • Continue practicing to ensure that tension is provided only to targeted muscle groups.
  • In case of broken bones or pulled muscles, see a doctor before practicing it.
  • You need to learn the technique to understand and identify the difference in your body or muscles after tensing them and after releasing the tension.

Know the Muscle Groups and the Right Tensing Technique

There are different muscle groups in the body. The Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique is practiced on each of these muscle groups. Hence, it is important that you know about them and how you should tense them.

  • Foot: Curl your toes by stretching downwards.
  • Lower leg: Pull the toes inwards and tighten the calf muscle.
  • Leg: Squeeze the leg muscles.
  • Hand: Clench the fists.
  • Arm: Tighten the biceps.
  • Stomach: Pull the stomach muscles inwards.
  • Buttocks: Tighten them by pulling them close to each other.
  • Mouth: Stretch the mouth by opening the jaws wide.
  • Chest: Tighten the chest by inhaling as deeply as possible.
  • Eyes: Shut the eyelids tightly.
  • Neck and shoulders: Lift the arms so that the shoulders touch the ears.
  • Forehead: Raise the eyebrows as much as possible.

As you become skilled with practice, you can tense these muscle groups together to do the process elaborately and faster.

Preparing for the Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique

Before you start the Progressive Muscle Relaxation technique, it is a must that you –

  • Consult a doctor, in case you have a chronic muscle problem or pain or injury.
  • Find a quiet and relaxing place far from any sort of disturbance or interruptions.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and sit on a comfortable chair.
  • Have the blanket or bed ready to immediately access some warmth, as the body feels a little chill when the muscles relax. Lying on the bed for a sleep or short nap will only add to the comfort.
  • Avoid heavy meals or drinking as they hinder the relaxation process.

What are the Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique?

  • Immediate Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique: Not only does progressive muscle relaxation technique relax your muscles and relieve off the stress, but it also yields a number of other benefits. These include –
    • Better oxygen supply to the bloodstream.
    • Decreased heart beat level or palpitation.
    • Decreased and comfortable breathing rate.
    • Lowered and comfortable blood pressure level.
    • Reduced mental chatter as the beta waves of the brain are shifted to high-grade alpha waves.
    • Reduced muscle tension throughout the body.

Along with these immediate benefits of progressive muscle relaxation technique, there are some long term benefits as well.

  • Long Term Benefits of Practicing Progressive Muscle Relaxation Technique: These long term benefits would include –
    • A huge reduction in the general level of stress and anxiety across the body.
    • Better concentration level.
    • Better ability to stay focused.
    • Reduced frequency of stress.
    • A better general outlook towards life.
    • A positive mood.
    • Stronger immune system.
    • Enhanced general well-being.
    • Increased energy levels.
    • Better sleeping ability at night or reduced insomnia level.

Progressive muscle relaxation technique has been proven to be a very effective way in treating insomnia problems caused by stress and anxiety. As the mind is calmed and the fatigue level is reduced, the relaxed muscles ensure that you sleep better.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 29, 2017

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