Skip to Content
Home > Health Library > Stress Management: Doing Progressive Muscle Relaxation
View Additional Content In This Section
Have you ever had an aching back or
pain in your neck when you were anxious or stressed? When you have anxiety or
stress in your life, one of the ways your body responds is with muscle tension.
Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps relieve that
muscle relaxation is a method to help you relax. You do a series of exercises
in which you tense your muscles as you breathe in and relax them as you breathe
out. You work on your muscle groups in a certain order.
Progressive muscle relaxation is an exercise where you
breathe slowly to relax your muscles.
When you do progressive muscle relaxation, you
do a series of exercises in which you tense your muscles as you breathe in and
relax them as you breathe out.
Continue to Why?
muscle relaxation can reduce anxiety, stress, and muscle tension, and it may
help if you have trouble falling asleep. It can help ease headaches by focusing on the muscles of the head, neck, and jaw. As you learn how your "tense" muscles
feel and how your "relaxed" muscles feel, you may be able to tell when you need
Progressive muscle relaxation is easy to do. And if you
can find a place to lie down and get comfortable, you can do it anytime you
People who have anxiety, stress, muscle tension, or
trouble falling asleep may benefit from progressive muscle
Progressive muscle relaxation can help relieve
anxiety, stress, and muscle tension. It may also help you fall asleep.
Continue to How?
You can use an audio recording to
help you focus on each muscle group, or you can learn the order of muscle
groups and do the exercises from memory. Choose a place where you won't be
interrupted and where you can lie down on your back and stretch out
comfortably, such as a carpeted floor.
After you have learned how to tense and relax each muscle
group, here's something else to try. When you have a very tense muscle, you can
practice tensing and relaxing that muscle area without going through the whole
following is a list of the muscle groups in order and how to tense them.
Remember to lie down when you do this.
What to do
Extend them, and
bend your hands back at the wrist.
and upper arms
your hands into fists, bend your arms at the elbows, and flex your biceps.
Shrug them (raise
toward your ears).
Wrinkle it into a
Around the eyes and
bridge of the nose
Close your eyes as
tightly as you can. (Remove contact lenses before you start the
Cheeks and jaws
Smile as widely as
Press your lips
together tightly. (Check your face for tension. You just want to use your
Back of the neck
Press the back of
your head against the floor or chair.
Front of the
Touch your chin to
your chest. (Try not to create tension in your neck and head.)
Take a deep breath,
and hold it for 4 to 10 seconds.
Arch your back up
and away from the floor or chair.
Suck it into a tight
knot. (Check your chest and stomach for tension.)
Press your buttocks
Point your toes
toward your face. Then point your toes away, and curl them downward at the same
time. (Check the area from your waist down for tension.)
When you first start, it may be helpful to use an
audio recording until you learn all the muscle groups in order.
An audio recording can be helpful at first to
guide you through the muscle groups. Using an audio recording may also help you
tense and relax your muscles for the right amount of time. After a while, you
may be able to do this on your own.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have learned
about progressive muscle relaxation, you are ready to give it a try. Check your
local library, websites that sell audio programs, or a bookstore for progressive muscle relaxation audio
If you want to try another other relaxation technique,
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2009). Coping with and managing
stress. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 7th ed.,
pp. 312–329. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Freeman L (2009). Meditation. In L Freeman, ed., Mosby’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 158–188. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
Freeman L (2009). Relaxation therapy. In Mosby's Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 129–157. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
May 15, 2012
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine & Steven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
To learn more visit Healthwise.org
© 1995-2013 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
2650 Siskiyou Blvd., Medford, OR 97504