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The Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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Maybe it is the extra pressure your boss is putting on you at work. Or maybe it is trying to juggle the million and one things you have to do at home.

Many things in your life can cause stress, which can affect your behavior, mood and body. When you have small amounts of stress in your life, it may provide the motivation to get work done.

But too much stress can have negative effects. Physically, stress can cause sleep problems, headaches and muscle tension.

Behaviorally, stress can cause changes in eating and angry outbursts. You may become sad, irritable or anxious when stressed.

So what can you do when you are feeling the effects of stress? Several different stress management strategies may help, such as progressive muscle relaxation.

With progressive muscle relaxation, you tense one group of muscles at a time for 10 seconds, then release the muscles. While performing the muscle tension and release, you focus on the sensation changes.

During the relaxation technique, also practice deep breathing.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City noted that progressive muscle relaxation works by reducing your blood pressure, pulse rate, physiological tension and respiration rates. This stress management technique can help with several other issues besides stress.

For example, BreastCancer.org stated that breast cancer patients who practice progressive muscle relaxation may experience less anxiety, depression, nausea and vomiting.

Several different health care professionals receive training in progressive muscle relaxation. Psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses are examples of health care professionals who can guide you through progressive muscle relaxation.

You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation on your own, using a popular sequence to move up your body. For example, one sequence starts with the right foot, then left foot, then moves up the body, switching between right and left sides.

If you are left-handed, start progressive muscle relaxation with your left foot instead. It may take practice to tense only one muscle group at a time.

Before you start practicing progressive muscle relaxation, you should be mindful that some risks are involved. BreastCancer.org noted that in rare cases, this technique may cause anxiety and physical symptoms, such as pain and muscle twitching.

The organization added that individuals with schizophrenia should not practice progressive muscle relaxation. If you are unsure if you should practice this technique, talk to your physician.


MayoClinic.com. Stress Symptoms: Effects on Your Body, Feelings and Behavior. Web. 6 February 2012

MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Stress and Anxiety. Web. 6 February 2012

Helpguide.org. How to Practice Relaxation Techniques. Web. 6 February 2012

BreastCancer.org. Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Web. 6 February 2012

University of Missouri-Kansas City. Relaxation. Web. 6 February 2012

Reviewed February 6, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.