Beat Stress

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation? Beat Stress and Restore Muscles

Stress does more than give you a headache or make you feel overwhelmed. Chronic stress takes a physical toll that can lead to poor health over time. Learning stress management techniques like progressive muscle relaxation can counteract the effects of stress and help you feel more relaxed.

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique that involves systematically tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body to achieve physical and mental relaxation. Here are some key details about progressive muscle relaxation:

  • How it works: PMR involves sequentially tensing each muscle group for 5-10 seconds and then relaxing for 20-30 seconds before moving onto the next muscle group. This helps identify feelings of tension and learn to voluntarily relax the muscles.
  • Muscle groups involved: PMR usually involves tensing and relaxing the major muscle groups like the arms, legs, back, chest, shoulders, neck, etc. Some versions may include the face as well.
  • Purpose: PMR aims to reduce muscle tension and anxiety by promoting relaxation. With regular practice, it teaches one to recognize and relieve muscle tension.
  • Benefits: PMR can reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue, and anger. It may help lower blood pressure and heart rate, relieve pain and headaches, and improve sleep quality.
  • Procedure: PMR sessions are usually 10-20 minutes long. One can do PMR from a sitting or lying position in a quiet setting while focusing on breathing and muscle sensations.
  • Guidance: A therapist often provides verbal guidance during initial PMR sessions, instructing which muscle to tense and relax. Eventually one learns to practice independently.
  • Variations: There are audio recordings and mobile apps available to guide PMR sessions. Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing may complement PMR.

In summary, progressive muscle relaxation is an evidence-based relaxation technique that reduces muscle tension through alternating muscle contraction and release to manage stress and promote mind-body relaxation. It is simple to learn and can be practiced anytime.

Progressive muscle relaxation is also an effective way to aid muscle recovery after an intense workout. When performed properly, it helps muscles relax, recharge and rebuild stronger than before.
This article shares tips on using progressive relaxation for stress relief and post-workout muscle restoration.

How Does Stress Affect Muscles?

When you encounter a threat, whether real or perceived, your body activates its stress response. Part of this response involves tensing your muscles to prepare for action. Muscles tense to mobilize energy and enhance your reflexes.
But sustained muscle tension leads to muscle pain, soreness, stiffness, and even muscle spasms or cramps. It hampers blood circulation, oxygen and nutrient supply to muscle tissue. Prolonged stress keeps muscles perpetually tensed up.
Learning to relax muscles through techniques like progressive relaxation can curb these effects.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation Benefits

  • Reduces muscle tension and aches
  • Improves blood flow and oxygen circulation
  • Boosts muscle flexibility
  • Speeds up muscle recovery after exercise
  • Lowers stress hormones like cortisol
  • Triggers relaxation response
  • Improves sleep quality
  • Heightens body awareness

How Progressive Muscle Relaxation Works?

Progressive muscle relaxation is a two-step technique that involves systematically tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body.
You begin by deliberately tensing specific muscle groups for 5–10 seconds. Pay close attention to the tension. Then relax those muscles abruptly for 20–30 seconds, focusing on the sensation of release. Repeat with other muscle groups.
Tensing and releasing muscle groups creates awareness of muscular tension and triggers the direct experience of the relaxation response as muscles release tension. It highlights the difference between a tense and relaxed state.
Practised regularly, progressive relaxation teaches your body and mind to enter a deeply relaxed state as muscles systematically release excess tension.

Progressive Relaxation Technique

Follow these step-by-step guidelines to practice progressive relaxation:
  1. Get comfortable: Choose a quiet, distraction-free space. Sit or lie down comfortably in loose clothing. You can place a pillow behind your lower back for support.
  2. Turn attention inward: Close your eyes and turn focus inward. Take a few deep, slow breaths. Inhale and exhale gently through your nose. Observe each breath entering and leaving your body.
  3. Tense each muscle group: Start the sequence by deliberately tensing the muscles of your feet. Curl your toes downward and tense feet muscles for 5–7 seconds.
  4. Release and relax: Let go of the tension abruptly and relax muscles completely for 15 -20 seconds. Observe the sensation of relaxation spreading across the feet.
  5. Work upwards from feet: Slowly progress upwards through muscle groups of the body – lower legs, thighs, hands, arms, abs, chest, shoulders, neck, and face. Follow the tense-relax sequence for 5–7 seconds for each group.
  6. Scan the body: Conclude by scanning your whole body from head to toe for any residual tension. Release any tension discovered. Let your entire body sink into the surface below in a relaxed state.
  7. Regulate breathing: Throughout the practice, keep breathing slow, gentle and even. Inhaling during muscle tension and exhaling fully during relaxation.
Aim to practice progressive muscle relaxation for 10 to 20 minutes daily. Guided relaxation audio can help direct the sequence. You will soon be able to relax at will.

Muscle Restoration after Workout

Progressive relaxation assists faster muscle recovery following strenuous activity or workouts that cause tiny tears and microtrauma to muscle fibres.
Relaxation widens blood vessels (vasodilation), enhancing blood flow to muscles along with oxygen and nutrients. It lowers stress hormones and inflammation in the body. This speeds up muscle repair, adaptation, and growth.
Practising gentle progressive muscle relaxation after intense workouts accelerates the muscle regeneration process. It also prepares muscles for subsequent bouts of exercise by enhancing muscle flexibility and range of motion. Tight muscles are more injury-prone.
Relaxed muscles respond better to post-workout corrective and restorative exercise as well as massage therapy.

Additional Relaxation Tips

Besides progressive relaxation, also try:
  • Stretching – Gentle static muscle stretches enhance muscle pliability.
  • Massage – Soothing muscle massage strokes encourage relaxation.
  • Heat therapy – Applying heat packs can relax muscle tightness.
  • Mindful breathing – Conscious slow breathing instantly calms the mind and body.
  • Guided imagery – Relaxing nature visualizations quiet the mind.
  • Calm music – Soothing instrumental music with nature sounds promotes muscle ease.

How long should each progressive relaxation session last?

A 10-15 minute progressive relaxation session is recommended for beginners. But even 5 minutes a day consistently can make a difference. Advanced practitioners can extend up to 30 minutes. Fit relaxation as per your schedule.

When during the day is it best to practice progressive muscle relaxation?

Early mornings and late evenings tend to work very well. The ideal timing would be when you are least likely to be disturbed. You can even try relaxation before sleep. But avoid practising soon after meals, when you may feel too full and sleepy.

Which muscles should be tensed during progressive relaxation?

Focus on tensing and relaxing major muscle groups throughout the body sequentially. This includes muscles of feet, lower legs and thighs, hands, arms, abs, chest, shoulders, neck and facial muscles. Always start from the extremities.

How hard should I tense my muscles during progressive relaxation?

Tense the muscles just strongly enough to feel distinct tension. Over-tensing for too long risks injury or soreness. Ideally to begin with, tense for 5 seconds, feeling the contraction take effect then release. Extend up to 10 seconds as practice deepens.

How to Add Progressive Muscle Relaxation to Your Self-Care Routine?

Follow this checklist to seamlessly incorporate relaxation into daily life:
  • ✔️ Designate Relaxation Time – Book daily relaxation, like all other appointments. Add reminders to calendar if needed.
  • ✔️ Minimize Disruptions – Inform family about relaxation time. Switch phone to silent mode. Turn off distractions.
  • ✔️ Prepare The Space – Clear clutter and create ambiance conducive to relaxing. Play soft music if desired.
  • ✔️ Adopt Comfy Posture – Sit upright or lie down, maintaining good posture. Use bolsters if needed.
  • ✔️ Relax Before Sleep – Practice relaxation 15 minutes before bedtime to enhance sleep quality.
  • How To Perform Progressive Muscle Relaxation Correctly
  • Here are key tips for optimal practice:
  • ✔️ Inhale On Tension, Exhale On Relaxation – Breathe slowly and deeply throughout the practice.
  • ✔️ Focus Attention Inward – Tune into physical sensations as you tense and relax muscles without judgement.
  • ✔️ Relax Muscles Fully – Don’t hold any residual tension after relaxing muscles.
  • ✔️ Be Consistent – Daily practice yields compounding gains over time. Even 5 mins a day counts.
Wrap Up
Learning and regularly practising progressive muscle relaxation delivers profound relaxation along with multiple wellness benefits. It counters unhealthy muscle tension triggered by chronic stress. The technique also expedites muscle restoration following strenuous physical activity or exercise.
Consider enlisting custom progressive relaxation classes from trained wellness experts to experience deeply soothing guided relaxation sessions tailored to your unique requirements.
Progressive muscle relaxation complements fitness activities perfectly. Tense muscles regularly to keep fit. Relax muscles deeply to remain stress-free. Balance muscle exertion and relaxation for whole-body harmony.
Invest in learning effective science-based relaxation techniques. Relaxed, healthy muscles represent a sound mind in a sound body!
At healthcare nt sickcare's online medical laboratory, relax knowing you have access to convenient and affordable clinical lab tests to proactively monitor your health. Our patient-centric services empower you to take charge of your wellbeing. Book your lab tests online, and we will arrange sample collection from your location of choice by our skilled phlebotomists. With transparent pricing, fast TAT and detailed test reports, we assist your healthcare journey!
#progressiverelaxation #musclerestoration #relaxationtechniques #stressrelief #workoutrecovery
All material copyright healthcare nt sickcare. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy of use apply. The contents of this website are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Our content is inspired by various online articles and our own offline experiences. It is meant to provide public awareness and regular updates to the clientele of healthcare nt sickcare.
© healthcare nt sickcare and, 2017-Present. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to healthcare nt sickcare and, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.