Progressive muscle relaxation: the most important questions and answers

Progressive Muskelentspannung: Die wichtigsten Fragen und Antworten

Many people today suffer from muscle tension, which often occurs as a result of lack of exercise and poor posture. A stressful everyday life can also have a negative impact on the body. But for which cases is progressive muscle relaxation specifically suitable?

In this post, we explain what progressive muscle relaxation is and how it works. We also give you valuable tips on how to effectively prevent the annoying tension.

the essentials in brief

  • Progressive muscle relaxation is a relaxation technique according to Jacobson, in which body muscles are specifically tensed and relaxed.
  • It is suitable for people with physical as well as psychological problems. In the case of the physical component, these are monotonous movement sequences and a lack of exercise on the one hand and incorrect posture on the other. From a mental point of view, it is often fear, stress or excessive demands that lead to tension.
  • Tension can be prevented by integrating more physical activity into everyday life. Alternatives to progressive muscle relaxation include yoga, Pilates, meditation, massage and autogenic training.

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Progressive muscle relaxation: what you need to know

The progressive muscle relaxation - also called progressive muscle relaxation or progressive relaxation - describes a systematic relaxation technique of the American founder Edmund Jacobson. With this method, body muscles are specifically tensed and released with the aim of relaxation. It has long been used in the field of stress management and is often used in conjunction with other procedures.

According to recent studies, progressive muscle relaxation can also reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality as an adjuvant method in patients with COVID-19. (1)

How does progressive muscle relaxation work?

Your own psyche can be positively influenced by your muscles.

You tense individual muscle groups for about 10 seconds, then relax them for about 30 seconds and repeat this process one after the other with different muscle groups. Starting with your hands and arms, you work your way over your face, neck, shoulders and stomach to your legs and feet.

One takes advantage of the fact that the relaxation is transferred from muscle group to muscle group and further relaxation processes follow in the entire body.

When and for whom is progressive muscle relaxation useful?

This type of relaxation is especially beneficial for those who prefer to work with the body rather than the mind.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a very good way of relaxation for people who are confronted with stressful situations in everyday life and tend to be stressed. When it comes to anxiety, relaxation can help reduce it. (2)

Movement or targeted tension and mental relaxation are combined in a very short time. At the same time, fatigue can also be reduced. (3)

It is also suitable for people who suffer from migraines. In migraine patients, increased autonomic excitement is assumed, which can be compensated for by relaxation. (4) After progressive muscle relaxation, the migraine frequency is said to be reduced. (5)

woman jogging

Regular physical activity has a positive effect on physical, mental and social health and can strengthen the cardiovascular system and increase the development of the musculoskeletal system. (Image sources: Pixabay / pexels)

How does Jacobson's progressive muscle relaxation work?

It primarily makes you feel calm and relaxed in body and mind. You become less susceptible to tension and stress due to overload and improve your own body awareness. That means you develop a better feeling for tense muscles and can react accordingly. About 30 minutes after the exercises, the balance effect begins. Muscle tension decreases, heart and breathing rates decrease and blood pressure drops. In addition, as the muscles relax, the blood vessels dilate.

The relaxation of the entire musculature has a calming effect on the vegetative nervous system, which controls heartbeat, breathing, blood pressure, digestion and metabolism, among other things.

Many complaints from these areas can therefore be prevented by progressive muscle relaxation and, with regular practice, health can be strengthened in the long term.

How is progressive muscle relaxation suitable for children?

There are also suitable options for children as part of progressive muscle relaxation. With the help of muscle exercises suitable for children and special relaxation stories, children can be helped with anxiety disorders, school stress and circulatory problems, among other things.

For agitated or restless children, this type of relaxation is a way to "switch off" and reduce insecurities and fears. On an emotional level, the children become more relaxed, mentally relaxed and balanced. Many children suffer from headaches or migraines due to stress. The relaxation exercises can help reduce both the frequency and the pain itself. (6)

What are the causes of possible muscle tension?

The reasons for muscle tension can be both physical and psychological. On the one hand, there are often fears, stress in the family or at work, pressure to perform, excessive demands, etc., which lead to excessive muscle tension.

The physical causes are monotonous movements, lack of exercise and insufficient training in the neck, shoulder and back muscles. Many people sit for hours at work in front of the computer with an unhealthy posture and hardly move. The resulting tension can lead to permanent health problems and long-term damage to the body. These include, for example, headaches and back pain, digestive problems or high blood pressure.

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  • Get an automatic 21% discount when you buy now 💸*

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How can you effectively prevent tension?

Crucial for the prevention of tension is primarily the physical movement . You should make sure to integrate them into your everyday life and let them become routine. If possible, try to cycle a lot, take regular walks, or find an exercise that you enjoy.

In addition , targeted exercises for the shoulder, neck and back muscles can strengthen them and at the same time ensure improved posture. It is important to train the abdominal muscles, as these are essential for the stability of the back.

Another common cause of tense muscles is poor posture , ie hunched shoulders or a hunched back. So make sure you walk upright, have relaxed shoulders and the right sitting posture.

Magnesium, together with calcium, is responsible for smooth contraction and relaxation of the muscles. The ratio of the two minerals must be exactly right so that the muscles can perform their function properly. In addition, magnesium activates the so-called fuel of the cells, which is significant for muscle work. In order to prevent tension, a balanced electrolyte balance is therefore crucial.

The German Nutrition Society recommends a daily intake of 350 milligrams of magnesium for men over the age of 25 and 300 milligrams for women. (7)

This substance is found in many foods, such as:

  • Walnuts (about 130 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams)
  • Oatmeal (about 140 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams)
  • Wholemeal wheat bread (about 90 milligrams of magnesium per 100 grams)
woman doing yoga

Only with sufficient activity can the functions of the vital organs be maintained, the energy balance in balance and the body weight in the normal range. (Image sources: Li Sun / pexels)

What natural home remedies for muscle pain are there?

One of the easiest ways to reduce muscle pain is to drink plenty of water. As a result, the required nutrients reach the damaged cells more quickly and the healing processes in the muscles are stimulated. There are also some home remedies you can use if you need to.

Groceries functionality
Cold compresses They can reduce pain within the first 24 to 72 hours. The cold constricts the blood vessels in the affected areas and has an anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effect.
warmth Heat helps 24 hours after the onset of pain. This promotes blood flow, the healing process is accelerated and helps to relax the muscles.
chili The active ingredient capsaicin contained in chili provides relief from the symptoms on the affected areas. The tissue is better supplied with blood and cell regeneration is stimulated.
hay flowers Hay flowers are particularly suitable for treating tension. The mixture of grasses has a positive effect on blood circulation and reduces pain.
mustard powder Mustard powder in the form of wraps creates a strong feeling of warmth and improves blood circulation. The mustard oils irritate the skin and permeate the tissues, effectively treating tension.

What alternatives to progressive muscle relaxation are there?

Up to this point you have learned a lot about progressive muscle relaxation and have been able to acquire some background information. In the following paragraphs we will explain the alternatives to this method.

Physical movement

It is not necessarily a membership in the gym, it is often enough if you integrate more exercise into your everyday life. For example, you can cycle to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and you should also find time for walks. The most important thing here is regularity, make daily physical exercise a habit.


Pilates primarily aims to strengthen the muscles. The abdominal and back muscles in particular are simultaneously stretched and strengthened using specific breathing rhythms. A healthy posture is promoted, the deep muscles are strengthened and stress management is supported. Pilates exercises offer greater improvements in pain and function in the short term. (8th)


Consisting of breathing techniques, physical exercises and meditation, yoga improves physical health while benefiting the mind and soul. In addition to the positive effects on the muscles and mobility, yoga also has a significant impact on the psyche. Therefore, yoga could also be considered as an additional treatment option for people with depressive disorders or increased levels of depression. (9)

However, it is important to clarify individually to what extent yoga is suitable and helpful for patients with mental health problems. (10)


This is a mental training that can create a connection between mind, body and soul. It helps people develop consciousness and achieve balance, relaxation and self-control. (11)


Massage can provide various benefits to the body, such as increased blood flow, reduced muscle tension, and increased well-being. The pressure created increases the range of motion of the joints and reduces active and passive stiffness. A reduction in anxiety and an improvement in mood also cause relaxation (psychological mechanisms) after the massage. (12)

autogenic training

With this relaxation method, the power of the mind is used for more rest and relaxation. Fears and inner blockages can be released in this way. This relaxation technique effectively combats pain such as migraines, headaches and back pain. (13)

It is suitable for both children and adults, but should not be used by people with an acute, depressive psychosis, schizophrenia or dementia.


So these progressive relaxation exercises are suitable for a fairly wide audience and can benefit many people with different problems.

Keep in mind, however, that progressive muscle relaxation is not the solution to every problem that may arise. It is still important, however, that you reconsider your everyday life or your thoughts and try to change your attitude to reduce psychological stress if it is too much of a burden. In addition, sufficient exercise is extremely important for health and stress reduction - regularity is very important.


  1. Liu K, Chen Y, Wu D, Lin R, Wang Z, Pan L. (2020). Effects of progressive muscle relaxation on anxiety and sleep quality in patients with COVID-19.
  2. Gian Mauro Manzoni, Francesco Pagnini, Gianluca Castelnuovo and Enrico Molinari (2008). Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-year systematic review with meta-analysis.
  3. Ozgundondu B, Gok Metin Z. Effects of progressive muscle relaxation combined with music on stress, fatigue, and coping styles among intensive care nurses (2019).
  4. Meyer B, Keller A, Müller B, Wöhlbier HG, Kropp P. (2018). [Progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobson for migraine prophylaxis : Clinical effectiveness and mode of action].
  5. Bianca Meyer, Armin Keller, Hans-Georg Wöhlbier, Claudia Helene Overath, Britta Müller and Peter Kropp (2026). Progressive muscle relaxation reduces migraine frequency and normalizes amplitudes of contingent negative variation (CNV).
  6. Jong MC, Boers I, van Wietmarschen HA, Tromp E, Busari JO, Wennekes R, Snoeck I, Bekhof J, Vlieger AM (2018). Hypnotherapy or transcendental meditation versus progressive muscle relaxation exercises in the treatment of children with primary heads: a multi-centre, pragmatic, randomized clinical study.
  7. German Society for Nutrition eV Magnesium.
  8. Cherie Wells, Gregory S Kolt, Paul Marshall, Bridget Hill and Andrea Bialocerkowski (2014). The Effectiveness of Pilates Exercise in People with Chronic Low Back Pain: A Systematic Review.
  9. Cramer H, Lauche R, Langhorst J, Dobos G. (2013). Yoga for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Depression anxiety.
  10. Meister K, Becker S. (2018). Yoga for mental disorders.
  11. Sampaio CV, Lima MG, Ladeia AM. (2017). Meditation, Health and Scientific Investigations: Review of the Literature.
  12. Weerapong P, Hume PA, Kolt GS. (2005). The mechanisms of massage and effects on performance, muscle recovery and injury prevention.
  13. Kanji N (2000). Management of pain through autogenic training. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery.
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