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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
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
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
Extend them, and
bend your hands back at the wrist.
and upper arms
your hands into fists, bend your arms at the elbows, and flex your biceps.
Shrug them (raise
toward your ears).
Wrinkle it into a
Around the eyes and
bridge of the nose
Close your eyes as
tightly as you can. (Remove contact lenses before you start the
Cheeks and jaws
Smile as widely as
Press your lips
together tightly. (Check your face for tension. You just want to use your
Back of the neck
Press the back of
your head against the floor or chair.
Front of the
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.)
Press your buttocks
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 Consulted
Anspaugh 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.
May 15, 2012
Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
& Steven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
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