Progressive Muscle Relaxation: A Brief Guide

What is Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a specific relaxation technique that involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups in a sequence from feet to head (or head to feet) throughout your whole body. The goal is to relieve tension and activate your body’s relaxation response.

How does PMR work?

Progressive Muscle Relaxation works in part by helping to counteract a normal reaction to stress known as the flight-or-fight response. Repeated activation of the flight-or-fight reaction tends to take its toll on the body in a variety of ways including; muscle pain, tension, and stiffness that are often brought on by increased stress and anxiety.

What are the benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation?

Relaxation techniques and mindfulness-based strategies, like Progressive Muscle Relaxation, elicit the relaxation response, which actively lowers heart rate, clams the mind, and reduces bodily tension.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation also can help a person become more aware of how their physical stress may be contributing to their emotional state. By relaxing the body, a person may be able to let go of anxious thoughts and feelings.

Other benefits of utilizing Progressive Muscle Relaxation include:

  • Counters the stress response by slowing and deepening your breathing
  • Allows your cardiovascular system to slow down
  • Restores balance to your circulation to facilitate digestion and pain relief
  • Reduces the production of stress hormones
  • Lowers inflammation
  • Allows the body to rest and return to its base state of operation
  • Anxiety relief
  • Stress relief
  • Pain relief
  • Better sleep
  • Blood pressure control
  • Headache relief (both tension headaches and migraines)
  • Improved digestion
  • Blood sugar regulation
  • Improved concentration
  • Improved mood regulation
  • Reduced anger and frustration
  • Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) relief
  • Increased energy
  • Improved confidence in your ability to handle problems

Resources for Written or Guided Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercises:


Dr. Cierra Listermann is a licensed psychologist who specializes in treating trauma and PTSD, depression, anxiety, LGBTQ+, adjustment, burnout, stress, life transitions, family of origin concerns, relationship problems, women’s issues, sleep health, and chronic pain. She uses her considerable training in evidence-based treatments to help her clients reach their goals quickly and efficiently.