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An Overview of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Published on 13th August 2018

A form of deep muscle relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation is a wonderful way to reduce the physical effects that stress has on your body. It will also give you a feeling of emotional well-being as your mind also relaxes. Progressive muscle relaxation is based on the technique of simply tensing and relaxing 16 various muscle groups throughout your body.

In addition to relieving body tension caused by anxiety and stress, progressive muscle relaxation also helps to alleviate symptoms associated with certain types of chronic pain and bring relief to people who suffer from insomnia. Many doctors have used a combination of progressive muscle relaxation and standard medical therapies to give relief from symptoms from various conditions including:

The Technique

Learning the technique of progressive muscle relaxation, also known as PMR, requires practice and patience. You need to learn the feelings associated with the tensing and relaxing of each specific muscle group and how to control a specific body area. For example, some people new to PMR find it difficult to tense just the muscles of the foot without also tensing the calf muscle. Others master the technique quickly. Always keep in mind the more you practice the better you will become and before long you will be a master of progressive muscle relaxation

Preparing Yourself

It is best to perform PMR in a dimly lit quiet room, alone and without any distractions, not even music playing in the background. Wear comfortable, loose clothing and remove your shoes. Sit in a comfortable reclining chair, or lay down on a bed or couch. Many people find they are comfortable laying on the floor during their relaxation exercises.

The Process of Tensing and Relaxing

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing, or tightening, the muscles of a specific body area. The actual way you tense the muscle is not as important as targeting just that area. For example, some people may tense the muscles in their hand by clenching it into a fist, while others may tighten it by opening their hand and extending and stretching their fingers.

The process of tensing and relaxing each muscle group is basically the same for each area.

Remain relaxed for approximately 15 seconds and repeat the process on the next muscle group.

The Muscle Groups

When performing PMR many people start with the feet and move progressively up the body. The order of progression that is used is often a matter of personal preference. The following are the 16 muscle groups that are involved in PMR:

Once you have mastered the technique of PMR, you should practice it every day. However, a shortened version of PMR involves working four areas of muscle groups that cover the entire body.

Online Resources

There are many resources to help you learn progressive muscle relaxation.

A Few Words of Caution


Progressive muscle relaxation is an excellent way to control the physical and mental effects that stress has on your body.

*Photo by Pim Chu on Unsplash

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