skip to main content

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

A Mind-Body Therapy

Also called body scan meditation, PMR is a deep relaxation technique effectively used to control stress and anxiety, relieve insomnia and reduce symptoms of some types of chronic pain (including headaches, cancer pain, high blood pressure and digestive pain). 

The technique, developed by Dr. Edmund Jacobson in 1908 and described in his book Progressive Relaxation in 1929, is based on the premise that muscle tension is the body’s psychological response to anxiety-provoking thoughts and that muscle relaxation blocks anxiety.

In PMR practice, the individual focuses attention slowly and deliberately on each part of the body, from toe to head—tensing one muscle group at a time, followed by a relaxation phase with a release of tension—while being aware of sensations, emotions or thoughts that arise. 

PMR can be learned by nearly anyone and requires 10-20 minutes a day to practice. PMR steps:

    • While inhaling, contract one muscle group for 5-10 seconds, exhale and release tension in that muscle group.
    • Relax for 10-20 seconds, then move to the next muscle group.
    • Imagery may be helpful along with the release of tension to focus on any changes, such as imagining stressful feelings flowing out of your body as each muscle group relaxes.
    • Gradually work your way up or down the body, contracting and relaxing muscle groups.

Benefits of PMR


Practicing PMR helps individuals with insomnia fall asleep, by reducing physical tension and interrupting the racing thoughts that affect sleep.

Signs of Stress

It also helps in learning about the body and to distinguish the signs and signals of stress and tension in the body or specific areas of the body (the shoulders or jaw, for example).

Pain Relief

It is suggested that PMR leads to increased blood flow that supplies more oxygen, thus enhancing local metabolism, resulting in reduced pain and muscle spasms. A recent study indicated PMR may also reduce the perception or “threat” of pain, resulting in a significant decrease in tension in all muscle types between pre- and post-relaxation situations for patients after surgery. 

Pain Management

In instances when medication does not reduce physical pain, PMR treatment can specifically release muscle/musculoskeletal tightness in the abdomen and lower back.

Learn more about Mind-Body Therapies offered at CFI…



Stay in Touch