Overview of PMR and Applied Relaxation

Overview of PMR and Applied Relaxation

PMR was developed in the early 1920s by an American physician named Edmund Jacobson to help patients with stress and anxiety. It is known as Differential Muscle Relaxation in the U.K.

Everyone has heard the phrase, “I feel very tense.” The word “tense” relates to the muscle tension. Originally PMR tightened and relaxed two hundred different muscle groups in the body. But since that time we found that we get the same benefit by working fifteen to twenty skeletal muscle groups.[i] Researchers have demonstrated that individuals who practice PMR develop increased control of skeletal muscles, including a reduction in muscle tension during stressful events.[ii] This means that a person with misophonia will be better able to relax their muscles after being triggered. Their muscles will not stay 100% relaxed, but the more they can relax their muscles, the more it will minimize their misophonic reactions. It will also help a person calm down at a faster rate, so maybe they can calm down in five or ten minutes instead of an hour.

There are many reliable sources of information about PMR.[iii] Daily PMR has been shown to be beneficial in treating anxiety disorders and improving well-being because it produces a state of deep relaxation. PMR is just one way of obtaining a state of deep relaxation.[iv] With a physiological state of deep relaxation you will have a decrease in your heart rate, respiration rate, breathing, blood pressure, tension in your skeletal muscles, metabolic rate, and you will have a reduction in your analytical thinking.

Daily deep relaxation offers a variety of benefits. Here are a few that are common as a result of daily progressive muscle relaxation:

  • Reduced generalized anxiety
  • Less accumulation of stress
  • Increased energy and productivity
  • Improved concentration and memory
  • Better sleep.
  • Reduction of psychosomatic disorders such as high blood pressure, migraines, headaches, asthma, and ulcers
  • Increased self-confidence, reduced self-blame, and increased awareness of feelings/emotions

The reason you have an increased awareness of your feelings is that we perceive our feelings from our body in a number of ways. There are different states of muscle tension when you feel calm, relaxed, or happy versus when you are tense or angry. If your muscles are always tense, you trick your body into believing you are agitated. By practicing any form of daily deep relaxation, you can calm your muscles and then have an increased – and more accurate – awareness of your mood and feelings.

Applied Relaxation is relaxing your muscles without tightening them. [v] You need to practice this also. After you have practiced PMR a minimum of ten times, take two minutes to relax each muscle group sequentially, in the same order as PMR, but without first tensing them. Step through each muscle group, similar to the way you did PMR, but simply relax each group. For example, relax your fists for five to ten seconds, then your biceps, then your triceps, your forehead, and keep going through each of the muscle groups that you used for PMR. Do this at least once a day.

The final phase develops the skill of relaxing all muscles simultaneously. Sit or lie comfortably and say to yourself, “Relax.” Focus on relaxing all your muscles. Then say, “Relax” again, and relax all your muscles even further. Scan your body and release any muscle that still has tension. Hold this fully relaxed state for one minute.

One researcher found that it took up to a dozen hour-long sessions to learn this skill, including the progressive muscle relaxation component.[vi] You can practice this skill on your own or with a therapist. The biggest problem with learning PMR and Applied Relaxation is practicing it every day. To be successful, you will probably need to incorporate this activity into your schedule. Set a fixed time each day for your PMR exercise. Also, plan times to practice both types of Applied Relaxation (sequentially and simultaneously). This will take a great deal of effort, but the benefit is worth it, especially when you graduate to using muscle relaxation as a treatment for your misophonia.

[i] Borkovec & Sides, 1979

[ii] Borkovec & Sides, 1979; Lehrer, Woolfolk, Rooney, McCann, & Carrington, 1983; O’Bannon, Richard, & Runcie, 1987

[iii] Bourne, 2011

[iv] Borkovec & Sides, 1979; Conrad & Roth, 2007; Dehghan-Nayeri & Adib-Hajbaghery, 2011; O’Bannon, Richard, & Runcie, 1987; Öst, 1987, 1988a

[v] Conrad, & Roth, 2007; Öst, 1987, 1988b

[vi] Öst, L. G. 1988.