Progressive muscle relaxation

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Progressive muscle relaxation (or PMR) is a technique for reducing anxiety by alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles. It was developed by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the early 1920s.[1] Jacobson argued that since muscle tension accompanies anxiety, one can reduce anxiety by learning how to relax the muscular tension. PMR entails a physical and mental component.

The physical component involves the tensing and relaxing of muscle groups over the legs, abdomen, chest, arms and face. With the eyes closed and in a sequential pattern, a tension in a given muscle group is purposefully done for approximately 10 seconds and then released for 20 seconds before continuing with the next muscle group.

The mental component focuses on the difference between the feelings of the tension and relaxation. Because the eyes are closed, one is forced to concentrate on the sensation of tension and relaxation. In patients with anxiety, the mind often wonders with thoughts such as "I don't know if this will work" or "Am I feeling it yet." If such is the case, the patient is told to simply focus on the feelings of the tensed muscle. Because of the feelings of warmth and heaviness are felt in the relaxed muscle after it is tensed, a mental relaxation is felt as a result. With practice, the patient learns how to effectively relax and deter anxiety when it becomes at an unhealthy level where an anxiety attack would otherwise occur.[2]

Jacobson trained his patients to voluntarily relax certain muscles in their body in order to reduce anxiety symptoms. He also found that the relaxation procedure is effective against ulcers, insomnia, and hypertension. There are many parallels with autogenic training, which was developed independently. The technique has also proven effective in reducing acute anxiety in people with Schizophrenia.[3]

Jacobson's Progressive Relaxation has remained popular with modern physical therapists.

Relaxation method

Progressive relaxation involves alternately tensing and relaxing the muscles.[4] A person using PMR may start by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. With the eyes closed, the muscles are tensed (10 seconds) and relaxed (20 seconds) sequentially through various parts of the body. The whole PMR session takes approximately 30 minutes. As this is a technique, practice with PMR does make perfect and will usually not work effectively as it should the first couple of times.

Patients with generalized anxiety disorder who first try PMR with anxiety may become frustrated, feel rushed, or feel an increase in anxiety for various reasons such as being afraid to "let your guard down." As with doing anything new, this is to be expected and simply practiced again once or twice a day.[5]


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See also

es:Relajación muscular progresiva de Jacobson lt:Progresyvusis raumenų atpalaidavimas pl:Trening Jacobsona

pt:Relaxação muscular progressiva
  1. Jacobson, E. (1938). Progressive relaxation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  2. Craske & Barlow (2006), Worry, Oxford University Press, Inc., p. 53, ISBN 0-19-530001-7 
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  4. Wolpe, J. & Lazarus, A.A. (1966) Behavior therapy technique. New York. Pergamon Press.
  5. Craske & Barlow (2006), Worry, Oxford University Press, Inc., p. 53, ISBN 0-19-530001-7