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The Complete Guide to Progressive Muscle Relaxation

November 18, 2022

5 min read

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Author : United We Care
The Complete Guide to Progressive Muscle Relaxation

We may experience stress occasionally, which is a normal phenomenon. However, continuous pressure buildup over a long period can cause muscle tightness. In 1930, Edmund Jacobson, an American physician, introduced progressive muscle relaxation as a physical technique to reduce stress and anxiety. The procedure is also known as Jacobson’s Relaxation Technique. Progressive muscle relaxation aims to release muscular tension and manage stress’s physical consequences.

What is progressive muscle relaxation?

Progressive muscle relaxation is a therapy aimed at reducing anxiety in a patient. The treatment works on the principle that physical relaxation can calm our minds.

Jacobson observed it is possible to relax a tensed muscle by repetitively tensing and relaxing the body’s major muscle groups. The progressive muscle relaxation technique requires tightening and easing the major muscle groups in typical patterns. The therapy helps with:

Progressive muscle relaxation is an effective therapy for multiple conditions that may result from stressful situations. Regular practice of this therapy is helpful for effectively controlling stress and anxiety. It also helps minimize chronic pain and offers relief from sleep disturbances.

Physicians may recommend progressive muscle relaxation as supportive therapy in combination with standard treatment options for relief from digestive problems, headaches, and cancer-related pain.

Benefits of progressive muscle relaxation

The progressive muscle relaxation technique is easy to practice. You can learn it with proper guidance. There are several evidence-based benefits of progressive muscle relaxation, such as the following:

Relieves anxiety and stress

Progressive muscle relaxation relieves anxiety because of a stressful condition and is also helpful for treating generalized anxiety disorder. The therapy improves our sense of wellbeing by reducing the symptoms of stress and anxiety. It helps us cope with stressful situations that may lead to anxiety and depression.

Relieves sleep disturbances

Since progressive muscle relaxation eases muscles, it effectively treats sleep disturbances. It is also helpful for improving the quality of sleep. In addition, the therapy relieves chronic pains such as neck pain, lower back pain, and cancer-related pain.

Relieves migraine headaches

Progressive muscle relaxation has a beneficial effect on stress, which may trigger migraine attacks. Regular technique practice can reduce the severity and frequency of migraine attacks.

Helps manage high blood pressure

Systolic blood pressure denotes the blood pressure when the heart beats. Progressive muscle relaxation improves systolic blood pressure and can be used to support the medical management of high blood pressure.

How to employ progressive muscle relaxation

Follow the steps below to employ progressive muscle relaxation. Focus on different muscle groups after practising diaphragmatic breathing with closed eyes for a few minutes:

  1. Lower extremities: We should sit or lie to begin progressive muscle relaxation. Tighten the muscles in your toes and feet. Slowly release the tension over 15 seconds. Feel the stress melting away as you relax the muscles.
  2. Leg muscles: Increase the tension in your calf muscles and quadriceps. Maintain this position for 15 seconds before slowly releasing the pressure.
  3. Buttocks: Contract the buttocks for 15 seconds and slowly relax the muscles over 20 seconds.
  4. Abdomen and chest: Contract your abdominal and chest muscles; slowly release while focusing on the feeling of relaxation.
  5. Muscles in arms and hands: Pull your hands to your chest by clenching the fists and tightening all arm muscles. Stay in this position for 15 seconds before releasing slowly.
  6. Muscles in shoulders and neck: Raise your shoulders upwards to your ears while simultaneously tightening your neck muscles. Remain in this position and count up to 15, then slowly relax back to the original work while counting up to 30.   
  7. Jaw muscles: Constrict your jaw muscles for up to 15 seconds and release them slowly over 30 seconds.
  8. Forehead muscles: Concentrate on your forehead muscles as you squeeze them tightly. Hold the same position for about 15 seconds and then release slowly.

Tips to get the most out of progressive muscle relaxation

One day at a time

Making progress one day at a time is essential to get the most out of progressive muscle relaxation therapy. We should set aside up to half an hour daily to practice progressive muscle relaxation; this will help you make the therapy part of your daily routine.  

Be comfortable

The progressive muscle relaxation technique does not mandate a particular position. The aim is to be comfortable and in a distraction-free environment. Switching off your phone will help you avoid distractions. Wearing comfortable and loose-fitting clothing also helps.

Diaphragmatic breathing

Close your eyes and feel a calmness of mind while breathing deeply through your nose. Your stomach should rise while breathing. Exhale slowly through the mouth by drawing the belly button toward your lower back. Repeat this up to five times. Use this method as a warm-up before practising progressive muscle relaxation.  

Focus on relaxation

Concentrate on the feeling of relaxation you get while releasing the tensed muscles in each muscle group. Imagine your mental stress slowly melting away as each muscle relaxes.

Manage sleep disturbances

Practising progressive muscle relaxation before going to bed helps treat insomnia effectively. The therapy can help you fall asleep quickly and improve sleep quality.

Audio recordings

Several relaxation audios and video files are available on YouTube and other media platforms. You can use these to create a calm environment while practising progressive muscle relaxation.


Following a pattern of alternatively tensing and relaxing various muscle groups is the hallmark of progressive muscle relaxation. The therapy attempts to minimize the physical effects of mental stress and anxiety on the human body. Advanced muscle relaxation therapy helps adopt relaxation skills and develop a greater awareness of your body.  

Regular progressive muscle relaxation helps ease stress and anxiety by releasing physical tension. The therapy has many advantages, including improving sleep patterns, relieving migraine attacks, managing chronic pain, and improving systolic blood pressure. UnitedWeCare is a health platform that offers people mental support by connecting them with expert psychologists and counsellors. Contact us today to begin your journey towards a stress-free life!

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Author : United We Care

Founded in 2020, United We Care (UWC) is providing mental health and wellness services at a global level, UWC utilizes its team of dedicated and focused professionals with expertise in mental healthcare, to solve 2 essential missing components in the market, sustained user engagement and program efficacy/outcomes.

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