Progressive Muscle Relaxation: The Benefits for Stress, Pain, and More!
Are you riddled with stress, anxiety, or pain? If so, you know that the impact of stress and pain can be overbearing at times. Living a fulfilled life is difficult when you're experiencing any of these conditions, and many of the medications that can help have a list of worse side effects than what you're experiencing. Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) may be your answer to blasting away pain, stress, and anxiety using a technique that is 100% natural.
What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?
Most people have never heard of progressive muscle relaxation before, or if they have, they know very little about it. The concept is straightforward:
- When you breathe in, you tense up certain muscles, and when breathing out, you relax these muscles.
- Over time, you learn how to relax certain muscle groups.
Typically, people will go through an entire audio program to perform this practice across all muscle groups. The idea is that when your muscles are relaxed, you cannot feel anxious or stressed.
Of course, the exercise doesn't work immediately. It requires you to practice for weeks to find relief.
How to Perform Progressive Muscle Relaxation
The above outline provides a generic look into this practice of muscle relaxation, but it just scratches the surface of how to perform this exercise. Let's take a deeper dive into how to perform progressive muscle relaxation. Follow the few steps below to begin practicing on your own:
- Find a place to relax where you won't be interrupted and can lay down.
- Lay down, stretch out and be sure that you're in a comfortable position.
- Breathe in and focus on one muscle group to tense up and hold for 4 – 10 seconds.
- Breathe out and relax the muscle group completely.
- Relax for 10 – 20 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
You'll want to focus on the muscles and how they feel during this time. Focus on how the muscles feel when they're tense and when they're fully relaxed. Make a note of any pain and relief you feel as you work through all muscle groups following this technique.
When you're done with all muscle groups, you'll want to give yourself a moment to get back to the present state.
Many people will count backward from ten before sitting up. You can also use progressive muscle relaxation as a way to relax and fall asleep at night. You can do both if you like.
Tips on How to Start and Muscle Groups to Focus On
- Start at the hands and move to your:
- Move to your face and head:
- Front and back of the neck
- Move to the major muscle groups:
You'll want to focus on tensing and then relaxing all of these muscles. However, some of the muscles are a little odd to tense up.
For example, you need to clench your hands. The forehead is best tensed when trying to frown, but the jaws and cheeks require you to smile extra wide.
Pressing your back into the floor is ideal. The stomach is tricky to clinch but can often be done by sucking in your stomach and trying to make a tight knot. Expect your first few sessions to involve you learning how to tense up certain muscles.
The Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation
PMR is a free technique that anyone can do in their spare time, and that's reason enough for many people to try this form of muscle relaxation for themselves. However, there are also a lot of benefits that you'll want to consider when engaging in PMR. This practice can help:
- Reduce anxiety and muscle tension
- Improve sleep quality
- Reduce pain
- Decrease the frequency of migraines
In fact, PMR has a lot of key benefits, although most people that seek out this form of relaxation do it because they have immense bouts of anxiety, stress, or pain that aren't helped when following traditional treatment options.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Anxiety and Stress
Around 1-in-3 people experience extreme stress, while 77% of people have stress that impacts their physical health. Stress can rise even higher and become debilitating when you add anxiety into the mix.
Thankfully, PMR has been shown to help with both anxiety and stress in multiple studies, including:
- A 2019 study found that participants reduced their anxiety and stress significantly while performing PMR techniques.
- A 2016 study that found PMR provided anxiety and anger relief on a level that's similar to acupuncture.
You'll find multiple other studies that also show that performing PMR has significant benefits for stress, anxiety, and tension.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Pain Relief
Pain is something everyone deals with in their lifetime. If you're lucky, pain is fleeting and will go away. However, some people have chronic pain or arthritis, which impacts their quality of life.
PMR may not be a cure-all for your pain, but it is a great option for pain relief, according to:
- This 2013 study on neck pain
- An 8-week study on lower back pain
Many people also use PMR to help with arthritis pain. The Arthritis Foundation recommends PMR as a natural way to help reduce arthritis pain. People with rheumatoid arthritis often have a significant reduction in quality of life due to chronic pain. One study from 2016 found that PMR improves the quality of life and reduces pain for people living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Additionally, PMR has been shown to help with other conditions, such as:
- Potentially reducing high blood pressure to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
- Significantly reducing the frequency of migraine attacks
- Reducing pain caused by TMJ
- So much more
If you meditate already or want to find ways to improve your quality of life, PMR is one of the techniques you can try.
Progressive muscle relaxation is something everyone should be trying to incorporate into their daily routine. If you can't find the time to perform these relaxation exercises during the day, you can do them before bed, too.
You'll relieve stress, anxiety, and pain while improving your sleep. Need a little extra help relaxing or quick pain relief so you can practice PMR?
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