Progressive Muscle Relaxation for pain and stress

progressive muscle relaxation for pain and stress

When you have anxiety or stress in your life, one of the ways your body responds is by building up tension in your muscles.

Think clenching jaw and tight shoulders.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique that was developed by American doctor Edmund Jacobson.

It’s proven to be a relaxation method that helps

  • manage stress
  • relieve anxiety
  • release tension in muscles
  • sleep disorders
  • manage muscle pain for chronic pain conditions
  • manage fatigue in the elderly, cancer patients and chronic conditions

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique of sequential contraction and relaxation of the muscles of the body from head to toe and it’s easy to learn.

By focusing on the difference between the tense state and relaxed state, you can actually reduce stress and anxiety by learning how to relax your muscles properly – so it’s a form of meditation too.

Although Progressive Muscle Relaxation is not technically an exercise, it can be used as an exercise for people with fatigue related chronic illnesses. This is because you tense your muscles (which is an isometric exercise) as part of the relaxation technique.

Here’s how to do it …

The technique
  1. Set aside about 15 minutes to run through the progressive muscle relaxation.
  2. Find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
  3. Lay down or or find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes and let your body go loose.
  4. Take about five slow, deep breaths before you begin.
  5. You’ll be applying muscle tension to each muscle group in order (see below).
  6. Next, take a slow, deep breath and squeeze the muscles as hard as you can for about 5 seconds.
  7. Tense as much as you can without hurting yourself.
  8. Quickly relax the tensed muscles and exhale at the same time.
  9. Deliberately focus on and notice the difference between the tension and relaxation.
  10. Remain in this relaxed state for about 15 seconds, and then move on to the next muscle
  11. Repeat the tension-relaxation steps.
  12. After completing all of the muscle groups, take some time to enjoy your relaxed state.


The muscle groups

You can either start with your feet and systematically move up or you can do it in the reverse order, from your forehead to your feet.

Foot (point your toes downward)
Lower leg and foot (tighten your calf muscle by pulling toes towards you)
Entire leg (squeeze thigh muscles while doing above)
(Repeat on other side of body)
Hand (clench your fist)
Entire right arm (tighten your biceps by drawing your forearm up towards your
shoulder and “make a muscle”, while clenching fist)
(Repeat on other side of body)
Buttocks (tighten by pulling your buttocks together)
Stomach (suck your stomach in)
Chest (tighten by taking a deep breath)
Neck and shoulders (raise your shoulders up to touch your ears)
Mouth (open your mouth wide enough to stretch the hinges of your jaw)
Eyes (clench your eyelids tightly shut)
Forehead (raise your eyebrows as far as you can)

Some guided help

Guided help just means listening to a recording that runs through the instructions for you – and with the added benefit of some relaxing music in the background.

Interestingly I found links to guided Progressive muscle relaxation on websites for university students as well as on YouTube and iTunes.

Guided recording 1

Guided recording YouTube

Guided recording iTunes

Happy progressive muscle relaxing



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