What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation : Pros and Cons of PMR

Last Update on June 5, 2024 : Published on August 21, 2021
Progressive Muscle Relaxation

It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious from time to time but when you’re under too much stress or if you are struggling with chronic stress, it is normal to carry stress around in your muscles.

Muscle tension is just another sign that you’re too stressed. To relieve this stress in muscles, American physician Edmond Jacobson created a relaxation technique. Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR is a kind of relaxation therapy that includes deliberately tightening and relaxing your muscles, one by one.

One of the best stress management techniques, progressive muscle relaxation helps in managing the physical signs and symptoms of stress. Not only stress but PMR can also help relieve issues such as:

  • High blood pressure
  • Chronic headache or migraine
  • Sleep problems

In this article, I’ll be listing the pros and cons of practicing progressive relaxation techniques and answer the question; Does PMR help?

What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

What Is Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Introduced in the 1920s, PMR is based on the assumption that physical relaxation can help heal mental exhaustion. Edmond Jacobson found that by relaxing the tensed muscles, we can relax our minds.

The progressive relaxation technique requires you to tighten and relax the muscles, one at a time. This practice helps you notice the tension in your body. Tensing muscles before relaxing is very important as this allows you to feel the relaxation in the area.

PMR is used in therapy to help reduce chronic pain, release stress, relieve anxiety, and overcome insomnia. Doctors and therapists may also use progressive muscle relaxation in combination with other treatments to help relieve the pain of cancer treatment, digestive problems, migraines, etc.

Pros & Cons Of Progressive Relaxation Technique

Like every other treatment technique, relaxation techniques also have their advantages and disadvantages.

Benefits Of PMR

  • Reduces Anxiety & Tension

One of the major benefits of progressive muscle relaxation is that it helps reduce anxiety and muscle tension that often accompanies anxiety. In some studies, it was also found that progressive muscle relaxation was as effective as acupuncture.

  • Promotes Sleep

Practicing PMR can promote relaxation which in turn can help better sleep. People struggling with poor sleep due to physical or mental ailments can benefit hugely from progressive muscle relaxation techniques.

  • Relieves Pain

When we’re too stressed, it is common to carry that stress in our muscles. Mostly, the tension gathers in the neck and back area. PMR can help reduce pain in these areas. Pregnant women struggling with lower back pain can benefit from PMR too.

  • Reduces Blood Pressure

High blood pressure and hypertension can be a cause of heart attacks and strokes. Add stress in the mix and you’ve got a dangerous situation. Combining PMR with music therapy can help reduce blood pressure in adults.

  • Decreases Migraine

Severe pain in the face and head or migraine can mess with your life and daily routine. Stress and anxiety can also trigger migraines. Practicing progressive muscle relaxation can help balance the serotonin and reduce the risk of migraine attacks.

Drawbacks Of PMR

  • Doesn’t Relieve Stress All Together

While PMR does help relieve muscle tension caused by stress, it does not help relieve mental or emotional symptoms of stress. Even after relieving the physical symptoms, the mental and emotional signs of stress may remain.

  • Can Worsen Depression & Anxiety

In people with high severity of depression and anxiety, PMR may just worsen the symptoms instead of relieving them. Deliberately tensing muscles may make their physical symptoms worse.

  • Doesn’t Reduce Cortisol Levels

Progressive muscle relaxation may help balance serotonin levels but it does not help in reducing cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are high, it can lead to an array of health problems. Physical exercises can help reduce cortisol but PMR is not a physical exercise, so it might not help with regulating the cortisol levels.

Does Progressive Muscle Relaxation Help?

Does Progressive Muscle Relaxation Help

Our body responds to stress by tightening the muscles. This muscle tension can cause physical distress and pain. Also, tensed muscles might be a signal to our bodies that we are stressed. Caught in this cycle can be exhausting.

Progressive muscle relaxation helps break this cycle by reducing physical tension as well as mental tension.

Progressive muscle relaxation aims to relax your body as well as the mind. The response created by this technique can help bring the body from a state of alertness to a more relaxed one.

PMR can also help in bringing mental changes:

  • It can help slow breathing
  • It can help slow heart rate
  • It can help lower cortisol
  • It can help lower hypertension

Many people like practicing PMR after a heavy workout session, yoga, tai chi, etc. to help relax the body. It can also be used as a meditation technique when combined with deep breathing exercises.

I hope that this article helped you understand what is progressive muscle relaxation is, the advantages and disadvantages of progressive muscle relaxation, and does it help. More on how to practice progressive relaxation to follow.

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About The Author

Swarnakshi Sharma
Swarnakshi Sharma

Swarnakshi is a content writer at Calm sage, who believes in a healthier lifestyle for mind and body. A fighter and survivor of depression, she strives to reach and help spread awareness on ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues. A spiritual person at heart, she believes in destiny and the power of Self. She is an avid reader and writer and likes to spend her free time baking and learning about world cultures.

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