Progressive relaxation is the gradual and conscious letting go of built-up tension in the body’s muscles. If you are unwell or recovering from an illness or surgery you can practice this form of relaxation in bed or in an easy chair.
HealthLine write that this is a way to relieve muscle tension, also known as Jacobson’s relaxation technique. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a form of therapy that involves tightening and relaxing your muscle groups, one at a time, in a specific pattern.
The goal is to release tension from your muscles, while helping you recognize what that tension feels like. When practiced regularly, this technique may help you manage the physical effects of stress. Research has also found that it has therapeutic benefits for conditions like:
- high blood pressure
- sleep issues
When you have become more confident you will be able to practice it yourself whenever you feel tired, anxious or otherwise stressed. This technique is best done in a quiet place for 10 to 20 minutes where you won’t be interrupted.
PMR was first described by an American physician, Edmund Jacobson, in the 1920s. Jacobson noted that regardless of their illness, the majority of his patients suffered from muscle pain and tension. When he suggested that they relax, he noticed that most people didn’t seem connected to and aware enough of their physical tension to release it.
This inspired Jacobson to develop a sequence of steps for tightening and then relaxing groups of muscles. He found this allowed his patients to become more aware of their tension, to learn how to let go of it, and to recognize what it feels like to be in a relaxed state.
Since then, the technique has been modified many times but all modern variations of PMR are based on Jacobson’s original idea of systematically squeezing and then releasing isolated muscle groups.
Fibromyalgia Treatment explain that the overall goal of relaxation therapy is to elicit the body’s natural relaxation response, which includes slower breathing, lowered blood pressure, and an overall sense of calm and well-being.
Relaxation therapies help to minimize the effects of stress on one’s mind and body, thereby allowing an individual to cope with depression, anxiety, and the symptoms associated with chronic conditions such as Fibromyalgia. There is also an added benefit to relaxation therapies in that most are able to be self-taught and self-administered, usually requiring only brief instruction from a book or an experienced practitioner.
It is also used for Arthritis and the Arthritis Foundation give details on how to practice this at home –
How to Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
For each muscle group, tense for 10 seconds and release. Take a few deep breaths as you notice the sensation that comes as those muscles relax, before moving on to the next muscle group. Skip areas that cause pain when tensing.
1. Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, expanding your belly as you breathe air in and contracting it as you exhale.
2. Begin at the top of your body, and go down. Start with your head, tensing your facial muscles, squeezing your eyes shut, puckering your mouth and clenching your jaw. Hold, then release and breathe.
3. Tense as you lift your shoulders to your ears, hold, then release and breathe.
4. Make a fist with your right hand, tighten the muscles in your lower and upper arm, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with the left hand.
5. Concentrate on your back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
6. Suck in your stomach, hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
7. Clench your buttocks, hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
8. Tighten your right hamstring, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hamstring.
9. Flex your right calf, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left calf.
10. Tighten toes on your right foot, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left foot.
Repeat each of these steps as often as needed to help treat your arthritis symptoms.