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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 tension.
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 routine.
The 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
Wrists and forearms
Extend them, and bend your hands back at the wrist.
Biceps and upper arms
Clench your hands into fists, bend your arms at the elbows, and flex your biceps.
Shrug them (raise toward your ears).
Wrinkle it into a deep frown.
Around the eyes and bridge of the nose
Close your eyes as tightly as you can. (Remove contact lenses before you start the exercise.)
Cheeks and jaws
Smile as widely as you can.
Around the mouth
Press your lips together tightly. (Check your face for tension. You just want to use your lips.)
Back of the neck
Press the back of your head against the floor or chair.
Front of the neck
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.)
Hips and buttocks
Press your buttocks together tightly.
Clench them hard.
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.)
Other Works ConsultedAnspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Coping with and managing stress. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 307–340. 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.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerPatrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerChristine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
Current as ofOctober 10, 2017
Current as of: October 10, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD, FAAFP - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado, PhD - Behavioral Health
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